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    12-year-old wins lawsuit against Phillies

    Date: 10.26.09 | by Judge Tom.

    That’s right! Jennifer Valdivia was at her first major league baseball game last July. She was with her grandfather, her older brother and one of his friends.


    Photo by Norm Kent - Jennifer's lawyer

    In the sixth inning, All-Star Ryan Howard hit a home-run to right field. Jennifer scrambled and beat her brother to the ball. Shortly after, a team representative came to their seats and escorted Jennifer and her brother to the clubhouse. Her grandfather didn’t speak English and stayed behind.  Jennifer was told that if she handed over the ball she could come back after the game, meet with Ryan and get him to autograph it. She turned over the ball and was given cotton candy and a drink.

    This happened to be Ryan’s 200th home-run, setting a record for achieving this milestone in the shortest number of games in major league history [658 games – 48 fewer than the previous record].  The team wanted the ball to give to Ryan.

    After the game, Jennifer returned to the clubhouse. Ryan didn’t show up and she was given an autographed ball but not the one that she caught. When she got home, she explained what happened to her mother who felt that her daughter had been tricked. She contacted the front office and was unsuccessful in getting the real ball back.

    It’s a time-honored tradition to allow fans to keep the balls they catch. Roger Maris told the fan who caught his 61st home-run ball [breaking Babe Ruth’s record] in 1961 to keep it and try to make some money with it.

    Once a lawsuit was filed asking for the ball and $15,000, the baseball was promptly returned to Jennifer. Written on the ball was “Ryan Howard 200th career home run.” The team also agreed to pay Jennifer’s legal fees.

    Jennifer has no plans to sell it.  She plans to be a pediatrician and said that “When I grow up and everything, I’m going to show it to my kids.”

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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