Sport Injury: Softball bat strikes player in the head - Unplugged with Ben Feld

As practicing lawyers, often times we read a court decisions which recite “the facts”, but what most people do not appreciate is what Paul Harvey referred to as “the rest of the story.” I sat down with Ben Feld of Feld v. Borkowski to better understand his life after he was rendered blind in one eye after suffering a fractured skull while playing softball. Today’s blog is Ben Feld Unplugged.

It took me a few more days than I had anticipated writing this post, but this young man deserves our time to understand how this flying bat and fractured skull has changed his life. As you will recall in 2005 Ben Feld was playing first base on a softball team.

So what are the legal facts? On Thursday June 2, 2005 young Ben Feld went straight from walking beans to practicing his fielding skills on a baseball diamond in Carroll, Iowa. It was during practice that a batter swung the bat, made contact with the ball (the ball went in the direction of the left field) and somehow allowed the bat to go in the direction of right field. As the bat flew toward first base it struck Ben Feld in the side of the head rendering him unconscious and fracturing his skull. He was taken by ambulance to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Carroll, but then was transferred by helicopter to Iowa City. For some odd reason the helicopter did not have enough fuel, which complicated things from the standpoint of getting him to where he needed to be, but nevertheless he did finally make it to the emergency room in Iowa City. Problems developed while at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and eventually Father Peter was brought in to administer the last rights.

I did not speak with his parents for this article, but I understand the doctors told his parents that with the condition which had developed 80% die, 10% are permanently disabled and 10% are normal.  As hospital stays go, the medical bills were climbing and by the time he was discharged they were now in the neighborhood of $75,000.00. Ben is now legally blind in the left eye and after being discharged from the hospital found his future employability in question. He also found his character being questioned in the sense that after his parents and he sued the batter, people treated them differently and in the end his teammates kicked him off the team. I guess they play ball in Carroll different than I learned it in New England. I know from over thirty-years of practicing personal injury law that people not involved in the lawsuit mostly misunderstand why anyone would sue. But until you are in the position of being the injured person you really shouldn’t criticize or judge the Plaintiffs.

Ben sued the batter in Carroll County District Court and on July 10, 2007 his suit was dismissed by the sitting judge. Strike one. That decision was appealed and the Court of Appeals of Iowa on October 1, 2008 affirmed the lower court decision, meaning those justices agreed with the way the district court ruled. Strike two. But Ben’s lawyers were not convinced either of those decisions was right and so they appealed again, but this time to the Supreme Court of Iowa. In Iowa the Supreme Court is your last stop on the bus line to justice. If you strike out at the big dance the game and your bus ride are over. But on October 22, 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ben Feld and his parents Larry and Judith. I pretty sure that ball is heading out of the park!

Unlike most clients, Ben had sat through the oral arguments and heard what the lawyers said about the law and he still wasn’t persuaded that justice would be done. He, his parents and their lawyers pressed on and eventually settled in Ben's favor. While I do not know the Felds I get the sense they are hardworking and honest Iowans who are probably on the conservative side of politics.  His dad is a farmer and his mother the magistrate clerk in Carroll County.

As the case moved along through the court system Ben graduated from high school. Then in 2008 he attended classes at DMACC and in December 2010 graduated with an Associates Degree. After which he started at Drake University as a business management major and opened his own business, as a private investigator. He called his business Bulldog Investigation. The business kept him busy performing service of process, investigating infidelity case and a few homicide cases. The more he worked in this area the more he found he liked the kind of work he was performing. After graduating from Drake in 2010, Ben found himself wanting more than just a business degree and so in the fall of 2010 he applied and was accepted at Thomas. M. Cooley Law School in western Michigan. The way it works at Cooley is the top 5% can transfer and attend Michigan State University College of Law. Ben was one of the few who would work hard enough to be offered the opportunity to transfer and he took them up on their offer.

The formula for law school is quite simple. They scare freshman nearly to death; as sophomores they work you nearly to death and then as seniors, they bore you to death. And if you make it through graduation, pass a bar and obtain admission for a license, then you get a seat at the table. Without it you have no seat at the table and no voice.

Consider for a minute what this young man faced as a law student. Law school is tough enough even for those with unhindered eyesight. A person who is blind in one eye needs to learn again how to do something we all take for granted. Reading. Seeing with depth perception through an impaired lens makes reading nearly impossible. Ben did it and eventually graduated from Michigan State University College of Law; which is no easy feat. Tough kid. Determined young man. Maybe he should have been a catcher?

During law school he talked himself into a job as a law student intern at Sinas Dramis Law Firm in Michigan and also worked for the Michigan Attorney General digging into consumer protection and human trafficking problems. Along the way Ben Feld proved he is a hard working young man who if you need a lawyer in criminal defense or even personal injury you ought to give him a chance. I asked him how this has all changed him and this is what he said.

“Disabled people, after a serious injury, shouldn’t give up on their dreams. If you’re willing to fight for what you believe and work hard to get it, you can succeed. While I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me, I am asking for the opportunity to help people who need a good lawyer to fight for what is right and just.”

Ben Feld graduated from a Big Ten law school, passed the Iowa Bar Examination and was granted a license to practice law in Iowa. Ben Feld now has a seat at the table. And you can contact Ben at Feld Law Firm, 1200 Valley West Dr., Suite 208. West Des Moines, Iowa 50266 and by calling (712) 225-5236 or (515) 802-7676 or by email at [email protected].

I like Ben for what he stood for and for what he has become. He never gave up. Not even when his skull was shattered, so severely that Father Peter administer him the last rights. He’s a tough young man, a tough lawyer and it is a lawyer who should do well in his professional life. He is eager to do a good job and frankly he knows better than many about suffering, adversity, disability and discrimination. He knows what it feels like to be the underdog and more so the one shunned by those who failed to take the time to understand his side of the story. And now you know the rest of his story.

Ben Feld is my kind of lawyer. 

Related stories:

John Wellman Remembered: The Consummate lawyer, Rush Nigut, August 20, 2006

  • He lived with integrity and not only when it was convenient to do so. Always.
  • He sought justice. Because it is often hidden.
  • He encouraged the oppressed because they are always discouraged. 
  • He made a great impact on the world because he asked the simple question: "What can I do for you?"

Who is Peggy Elliott? Iowa attorney in Grinnell, Iowa

Who is Richard H. Bernstein? Elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2015, [Wikipedia] and attended Northwestern University

Blindness Statistics, National Federation Of The Blind

Prevalence of Visual Disability - The number of non-institutionalized, male or female, ages 16 through 75+, all races, regardless of ethnicity, with all education levels in the United States reported to have a visual disability in 2012.

  • Total (all ages): 6,670,300

    • Total (16 to 75+): 6,211,700

      • Women: 3,411,000

      • Men: 2,800,700

    • Age 18 to 64: 3,412,900

    • Age 65 and older: 2,724,600

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
Well was there any previous experience with this player using an illegal bat?
by Steve Lombardi November 24, 2010 at 12:52 PM
How would the case be different if instead of the batt hitting the player the softball did and as a result broke the player's jaw in two places, finding out later that the batt used was illegal according to league rules but neither the umpire nor league checked the batt prior to the game?
by W. Paul Miller November 19, 2010 at 04:41 PM
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