Nov. 28–WORCESTER — The state Supreme Judicial Court has upheld rulings in favor of the truck manufacturer and the maker of a piece of truck equipment in a wrongful death suit filed by the widow of Northboro pitching star Mark Fidrych.
The 1976 American League Rookie of the Year was found dead underneath his 10-wheel dump truck at his 107-acre farm in Northboro in April 2009. The medical examiner ruled that Mr. Fidrych, 54, died of asphyxiation when his clothing became entangled in a spinning component of the vehicle’s undercarriage while he was underneath, working on the truck.
His widow, Ann E. Pantazis, sued Mack Trucks Inc., the maker of the truck, and Parker-Hannifin Corp., which had acquired the assets of Dana Corp. Dana manufactured the “power take-off” equipment that was part of the system used to raise and lower the dump-truck bed.
Ms. Pantazis’ suit accused the companies of insufficiently warning of dangers posed by the moving parts. She had sought $5 million apiece from Mack Trucks and from the maker of the truck component before filing suit in Worcester Superior Court in 2012.
In two separate summary judgment rulings, different Superior Court judges ruled in favor of each of the defendants.
On Monday, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the earlier Superior Court rulings.
The SJC decision stated: “We conclude that where, as here, the components manufactured by the defendants included no design defects, and the risks posed by the assembled product arose out of the addition of other components and the decisions made, and actions taken, by downstream actors, the defendants had no duty to warn of those dangers.”
Mr. Fidrych was a farmer and independent dump truck driver after his baseball career, which included one of the most magical rookie seasons in history.
The curly-haired righthanded pitcher was only 21 in 1976 when he went 19-9 for the Detroit Tigers, starting the All-Star Game after winning seven of his first eight decisions.
Nicknamed “The Bird” for his gawky resemblance to the Big Bird character on the PBS children’s show “Sesame Street,” endeared himself to the nation with his colorful personality and offbeat antics.
He would appear to talk to the ball, get on his hands and knees to groom the mound, and high-five teammates after they made routine plays.
His baseball career was cut short by injuries, and he retired in 1983 at age 29.
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