Law360 (December 10, 2018, 6:07 PM EST) — Wilson Sporting Goods Co. has reached a deal to provide replacement baseball bats to settle a contentious proposed class action in Illinois federal court by buyers who alleged that Louisville Slugger Prime BBCOR bats were defective and that the company denied and discouraged warranty claims.
The proposed class, led by named plaintiffs George Alea and Curtis Hamburg, asked the Northern District of Illinois on Friday to grant preliminary approval to the agreement, saying that without a settlement, there will likely be a lengthy, costly trial that may end with the proposed class getting nothing.
“Had this case not settled, litigation could have continued for years,” the proposed class wrote. “Through protracted, heated and contentious battles over discovery, Wilson and its aggressive legal team have proven to be tenacious adversaries.”
Last year, discovery became so contentious that Alea moved to compel discovery, alleging that Wilson was holding back thousands of pages of documents related to how it advertised the bats. In turn, Wilson made a counter motion to compel discovery from the proposed class, according to court documents.
Alea filed the suit in January 2017, claiming that the handle of a $424.98 bat he purchased for his son to use in high school and recreational games started to loosen and rotate separately from the barrel after routine use, making it less effective. Hamburg was added as a named plaintiff in February.
According to the complaint, Alea sent a letter to Wilson asking for a new bat under the warranty, but the company refused, telling him the rotation was normal. His future attempts to reach out to the company were ignored, he said.
The settlement was arrived at after similarly “contentious,” “focused and intense” negotiations over several months, according to Friday’s motion.
Under the proposed settlement, anyone who purchased the bats can have them tested for free by Wilson. The company will replace any bats that are found to be defective. In cases in which no defects are found, the bats will be returned or the owners can get a voucher — with no expiration date — for 20 percent off toward the purchase of a new one.
Wilson has also agreed to pay all attorneys’ fees, the costs of class notices and administering the settlement, in addition to testing and shipping fees for the bats.
“We are proud of the relief the settlement offers to consumers, and look forward to presenting it to the court for preliminary approval at the hearing later this week,” William H. Anderson of Handley Fara & Anderson PLLC, representing the proposed class, told Law360 in an email Monday. The hearing is set for Thursday.
Representatives for Wilson could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
The proposed class is represented by Katrina Carroll and Kyle A. Shamberg of Lite DePalma Greenberg LLC, William H. Anderson of Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC, Jon Herskowitz of Baron & Herskowitz, and Charles J. LaDuca and Brendan S. Thompson of Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca LLP.
Wilson is represented by Jeffery A. Key of Key & Associates and Michael D. Hayes of Husch Blackwell LLP.
The case is Alea et al. v. Wilson Sporting Goods Co., case number 1:17-cv-00498, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.