In 2005 umpire Ed Hickox was working home plate and wearing a mask given to him by a Wilson Sporting Goods representative. According to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, during the game at RFK Stadium "a foul ball struck the throat guard of Plaintiff's mask. The impact dislodged the mask's metal frame from the rest of the mask. The ball's force pushed the frame into Plaintiff's ear canal, then pushed the entire mask completely off of Plaintiff's head and onto the ground. The Plaintiff suffered numerous injuries, including but not excluding, a concussion, broken bones in his left ear, and an inner-ear fluid leak from his right ear." Hickox had surgery to remove the broken ear bone and have it replaced with a titanium prosthesis.
Hickox sued Wilson Sporting Goods claiming the company was responsible for failing to adequately test the mask before issuing it to him, and because the mask failed to adequately protect his face. Hickox wrote in his complaint “An ordinary customer would expect the umpire’s mask, built to protect the umpire’s face from stray baseballs, not to harm Plaintiff when a baseball strikes the mask.”
Last Friday a D.C. jury awarded Hickox and his wife Lisa $775,000.
Patrick Regan, attorney for Hickox and his wife, told The Blog of Legal Times that Wilson performed more tests on the mask after the injury to Hickox, but did not say what, if any, changes were made to the mask’s design. Attorneys for Wilson say an appeal of the jury verdict is likely.