Posted on Nov 18, 2007
Jury awards A.F. family $6.7 million Joe Pyrah - DAILY HERALD
A $6.7 million jury verdict was handed down earlier this week in favor of an American Fork boy who was hit in the head with a softball bat in 2004.
Dalton Nielson was 7 when he ran out onto the field at Lehi Veterans Memorial Park between batters to give back a foul ball. The batter warming up swung without seeing the boy and hit him in the head. Nielson was flown to Primary Children's Medical Center for emergency brain surgery.
While initially Lehi city and the batter were named as defendants in the lawsuit, the batter was dismissed and Lehi settled. The verdict is split into two parts, with 92.5 percent being assigned to U.S. Specialty Sports Association and its local chapter, and 7.5 percent being assigned to Lehi city. The latter amount will not be collected because of the earlier settlement.
"I'm shocked at the size of the verdict, and there will be some post-trial motions and appeal," said Cliff Payne, the defense attorney for USSSA, a sports tournament organizing association.
The injuries were so severe that many in the community thought Nielson had died, but he improved so quickly that he was released from the hospital just two weeks after the incident. While there was a swift recovery, doctors testified at trial that he would need ongoing treatment for the rest of his life.
"The system works. Dalton has now been compensated for his tragic and terrible brain injury," said the family's attorney, Lynn Harris, in a statement.
During the trial it was argued that the umpire, provided by USSSA, had been allowing kids to bring back foul balls between innings, which set up the expectation of being allowed to come on the field, Payne said. The umpire disputed that he ever waived Nielson onto the field and there was some debate as to whether the boy's grandfather, who took him to the game, encouraged Nielson to go.