Woman injured in softball game sues opposing player She seeks $300,000 award after collision at 2nd base

January 29, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

At the time, it might have seemed a simple collision at second base -- an unfortunate injury in a YMCA-sponsored, mixed-league adult softball game back in 1994.

Base-runner Kevin Greenway says he tripped and didn't mean to hurt anyone, but the umpire ejected him for failing to slide; second-baseman Jacquelynne Stafford went to the hospital.

But now Ms. Stafford is suing Mr. Greenway and the YMCA, and the YMCA has sued Mr. Greenway's manager, the umpire and even the company that sold the team its T-shirts, and the bases are so loaded with lawyers you almost need a score card to follow the action.

"If somebody came in to me with this, I'd laugh," lawyer Alan J. Bloom said of the suit against his client, team manager Patrick Fendick -- but neither of them is laughing.

Ms. Stafford's $300,000 suit, filed by lawyer Philip A. Petty, alleges that Mr. Greenway, for failing to slide into the base in accordance with a game rule, is liable for damages for her injuries and for intentional battery.

Neither Ms. Stafford nor her lawyer would discuss the case, which also claims negligence by the YMCA for not doing enough to make sure all the players knew the rule about sliding.

To protect itself from potential financial loss, the YMCA then sued the team manager, umpire Donald Jackson and even DARC Graphics Inc. of Timonium, which sold the team its T-shirts. YMCA spokeswoman Lilian Bomgardner would not comment on the case or on YMCA softball leagues.

Lawyer Raymond M. Atkins, representing the umpire, said the suit "appears to me to be a scare," and that the umpire mentioned the rule on sliding at the start of the game. "This is a fun, nonprofit situation. He's done a lot of games. He does it for fun and he ends up in a bad spot," Mr. Atkins said.

Mark Darcangelo, owner of the three-worker DARC Graphics firm, says he did not sponsor the team and had no part in the games. He merely sold T-shirts and advertised his firm on them because the team had no nickname and invited him to use the space.

And he'll never do it again, he says.

Manager Fendick -- who invited Mr. Greenway to the White Marsh YMCA in the 7600 block of Lillian Holt Drive to play softball as a last-minute fill-in that Sunday -- says he has no softball plans for this spring.

"I don't think I'll be coaching anymore now," Mr. Fendick said, noting that he is planning to get married in July and wants no more financial risks.

And then there's Mr. Greenway, who said he can't afford to hire a lawyer -- much less handle a big-bucks award should he strike out in the courtroom.

Mr. Greenway, 26, who works for another graphics firm, said he was on first base that day with two outs when a ball was hit on the ground toward third. "I tried to slide, but I tripped," he said -- and fell into Ms. Stafford, who was playing second.

"She was blocking the base," the 6-foot, 180-pound runner said.

"The throw was ahead of him," Mr. Fendick recalled. "She [Ms. Stafford] caught it, and Kevin started to slide, but his cleat got caught and she sort of dived to the right. They both jumped in the same direction."

The men said Ms. Stafford ended up lying on the ground, crying from the pain of a possible broken collarbone, and an ambulance was called. Mr. Greenway said he tried to say he was sorry, but everyone seemed to shrug it off as an accident of the game.

"She was saying, 'Oh, I'm sorry, don't worry about it,' " Mr. Fendick recalled.

"I talked to the league coordinator a week later, and he told me she broke her collarbone," he said.

He heard nothing more for several months, until Ms. Stafford called him at work, he said, and began asking a lot of specific questions about the game.

Nearly a year later, in late 1995, he and Mr. Greenway were served with legal papers, he said. "I couldn't believe it," the manager said.

Mr. Greenway said he was stunned. "I was like, 'Oh, my God. What should I do?' "

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