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Suit against Fayette County youth league dismissed

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

A teenage softball player whose parents filed a civil lawsuit when she broke her leg sliding into home plate was a formidable opponent on the field this year, according to a league official, but her parents did not fare as well in court.

Fayette County Judge Steve Leskinen has dismissed a civil lawsuit filed in March by parents James and Kathy Hershberger against the R.W. Clark Youth Baseball League and North Union Township.

Through attorney Benjamin Goodwin of Uniontown, the Hershbergers alleged one of their daughters broke her leg on June 23, 2013, because the base path from third plate to home on the field near Oliver Road was uneven and riddled with holes and ruts.

In dismissing the lawsuit, Leskinen sided with the league's attorneys, Lauren M. Despot and John T. Pion of Pittsburgh.

They argued the field falls under the protection of the Pennsylvania Recreational Use of Land and Water Act, which limits liability on outdoor land used solely for recreational purposes and made available to the public at no cost. The law exists, they argued, to encourage land owners to make properties available for public use.

Trevor Waligura, league president, said he is “elated” with Leskinen's ruling.

“For once, you have common sense and the law in harmony,” Waligura said. “Volunteers who do what we do on a property like that, we have limited liability, and that's the way it should be.”

Goodwin, who said he had not received a copy of Leskinen's order, declined to comment.

Waligura said the teen, who was 12 when she broke her leg, played for a Fairchance league this year.

Despite her injury, he said, she is “an awesome athlete.”

“She pitched harder than anybody could catch,” Waligura said. “She runs faster than a deer. I'm glad to see she's still playing ball and hasn't been impacted by this.”

Waligura commended league participants for not allowing the court case to affect play on the field.

“I really thought we were going to have problems with upset parents, but we did not have any issues whatsoever,” Waligura said. “Like I told everybody, there's softball, and there are legal issues, and we are here to play softball.”

Waligura disputed the Hershbergers' contention that the field, which is mowed by the township but maintained primarily by volunteers, was in poor condition.

“Our fields are impeccable,” Waligura said. “This is one of those things that should never have been brought about. It was nonsense from the beginning.”

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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