A 12 year-old girl caught Ryan Howard’s 200th home run ball back in July. Afterwards, she was escorted to the Phillies clubhouse and exchanged it for an autographed ball. This being America, she sued (or, I should say, her parents sued) in order to get the ball back. Two days after the suit was filed, the Phillies gave her the ball back.
Even though I haven’t seen the lawsuit, I see why the team gave it back: 12 year-olds aren’t legally competent to make contracts, and any implied agreement to exchange the home run ball for the autographed ball would almost certainly be nullified by a court.
Maybe the Phillies could win if they went scorched Earth in the case, took depositions of the girl’s parents and got them to admit that it was them rather than their daughter who made the deal, but the Phillies wisely concluded, it seems, that life is too short to get into stupid litigation with speculating fans. At the same time, Howard strikes me as a more intellectual ballplayer than most, and I have this feeling that he wouldn’t ask the Phillies to go to the mat for him on what is ultimately a minor piece of sentimental memorabilia.
As for the girl — or, in all likelihood, her parents — the lawsuit seems like a dumb move. 200th home run balls from guys who are likely to hit 400+ home runs probably aren’t worth all that much in the grand scheme of things. Probably less than the retainer they had to pay the lawyer, and probably not much more than the autographed ball anyway (though I assume that they’ll let her keep that too to avoid the trouble). Even if I’m wrong about that, which story would you want to tell to your friends later in life:
(a) I once caught Ryan Howard’s 200th homer, I got to meet him, give him the ball, and he gave me an autographed one instead; or
(b) I once caught Ryan Howard’s 200th homer, I got to meet him, give him the ball, and he gave me an autographed one instead, and then three months later we sued his ass and got them both!
Maybe your answer is (b). If so, congratulations, you’re kind of a jerk!