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SOUTH BEACH: LAKE FOREST

Little League Officials Not Liable for Injuries to Player, Panel Rules

March 17, 1998|THAO HUA

An appellate panel in Santa Ana ruled that a Little Leaguer who was hit in the face with a baseball cannot blame league officials for his injuries, according to court documents made public Monday.

Ryan Balthazor, now 11, was playing baseball in Lake Forest on April 3, 1991, when he was seriously injured. Ryan and his parents, Dennis and Nancy Balthazor, filed suit against Little League Baseball Inc. and Saddleback Little League, seeking $100,000 in damages.

But a trial court dismissed the case, concluding that the injuries resulted from risks inherent in playing sports.

The Balthazors appealed, contending that league officials knowingly increased the chance of injuries for Ryan by failing to end the game, which was played on an unlit field, at sunset. The parents also accused officials of negligence for not providing helmets with safeguards and allowing a "wild pitcher" to play even after he had struck two other players.

In his decision, 4th District Court of Appeal Justice Edward Wallin wrote, "Accuracy in pitching, especially from a teenager, has never been a prerequisite to being allowed to pitch."

The three-judge panel similarly rejected the other two arguments, saying that league officials are not required to decrease the inherent risks in sports for athletes who willingly participate, knowing the risks involved.

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