The widow of Mark S. Fidrych cannot sue Mack Truck Inc. and a second company whose equipment was installed on the dump truck the former Detroit Tigers pitcher was using when he was accidentally killed on his Northborough farm in 2009.
Fidrych had owned the dump truck for 20 years when he activated a mechanism to raise the truck bed. His clothing got caught in the equipment, leading to asphyxiation on April 13, 2009, according to court records.
The widow of the 54-year-old Fidrych, Ann E. Pantazis, sued Mack Truck and Dana Corporation for not providing sufficient warnings about the dangers created when a machine made by Dana is used to help lift the bed of the dump truck.
In an unanimous ruling issued Monday, a three-judge panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that the lawsuit must be dismissed because the companies did not have a legal connection to Fidrych, who had modified the truck during the 20 years he owned it.
Moreover, the court noted, the two companies did provide warnings about the dangers created by using the equipment and explicitly warned against wearing loose clothing or getting underneath the vehicle when the machinery was in use.
“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,” Judge James R. Milkey wrote for the court. “The defendants had no duty to warn of those dangers.”
Fidrych rocketed to fame in 1976 when he joined the Tigers, relying on a sinking 93-mile-per-hour fastball and antics that included talking to the ball between pitches and grooming the pitcher’s mound.
A knee injury in 1977 shortened his career. Fidrych played before million-dollar contracts were commonplace in baseball, and he returned to his native Northborough.
“A lot of people think that Mark Fidrych made enough money where he didn’t have to work,” he told the Globe in 1996. “Well, I made enough to get me a 10-wheeler and a piece of land and a house, and now I’ve got to support that.”