The public support that a Manchester family has received for being sued after an errant Little League warm-up throw injured a spectator has been "a real eye-opening experience," said Bob Miglaccio, father to 13-year-old catcher Matthew.
"A lot of the things I read choked me up," Bob Migliaccio said. Since the incident, the Migliaccio family has received emails and phone calls from around the world.
"They're just calling to say, 'we're behind you, we support you.' The outpouring from people is overwhelming," Bob Migliaccio said, adding that he has been contacted by citizens as far away as Germany and England.
Matthew Migliaccio was 11 when his practice throw left the Manchester Little League field where he was warming up and struck Elizabeth Lloyd of Whiting in the face. Two years later, Lloyd is suing the teen for $500,000, saying that she was assaulted and battered by the throw and has ongoing pain and anguish.
A Little League spokesperson told the Associated Press that local leagues are required to have insurance for coaches, players and other workers, but not spectators. The Migliaccio's homeowners' insurance would cover the charges in the suit alleging negligence and carelessness. But Matthew Migliaccio could end up being held responsible for two other counts, according to the AP.
Support also has come through a Facebook group called "Stand up for Matthew Migliaccio," which has over 1,700 members.
"No child should have a sheriff show up at his front door to serve him papers for a frivolous lawsuit," reads the group's description. Migliaccio said that he and his wife will refrain from publicly commenting on the Facebook group page.
Attorneys have called to offer support pro bono. Others called to offer money for a defense fund, which Migliaccio said he does not want to accept right now. But, if legal costs continue to mount, it may be an option down the road.
"I don't even like borrowing money from people," he said. "I guess it just stoked something in people to want to help."
Lawsuit against son, rather than league, is a 'mystery'
"It's a mystery to us," as to why Lloyd decided to sue Matthew rather than Little League, Migliaccio said. "I think they wanted a quick hit. I think they thought our insurance company would write them a check and it would be over. I can't imagine they thought I'd go public with it."
At the local level, Migliaccio said that appreciates the Little League — his son is gearing up for play in the upcoming season. Before the incident, Migliaccio was a coach, though to remove himself from the spotlight he now only volunteers to help maintain the grounds. His wife also worked at the concession stand.
Migliaccio is not pleased with the league's central management, however.
"I think that they've lost touch with the kids who are in their league," he said, alleging that officials "at every level" will not help with his son's defense.
A call to Manchester Little League management seeking comment was not returned.
Migliaccio claimed that he and other parents that he has spoken with since the incident did not know about the league's policy of not covering spectators.
"Nobody knew about it," he said. "When you sign your kid up, you should know this. They're not covered if the ball leaves the field."
Migliaccio is not waiting for the league to change its stance — he has asked 10th Legislative District representatives to change an assumption of risk law that now applies to professional sports to extend to nonprofit youth sports. The legislators' chief of staff said that a draft of the bill is being written and could be completed next week.
Family struggled with decision to go public
Going public with the suit was not an easy decision for the family. After seeing the comments left by readers on news websites, many of which disagreed with the lawsuit, Migliaccio and his wife wondered if talking to numerous media outlets was the right thing to do.
"But we've come back to the fact that [the Lloyds] control the situation. Only they can drop the case. They're in control," Migliaccio said.
Migliaccio said that he is unclear on the extent of Llyod's injuries and she has not publicly released photos of her injuries — something she is not required to do.
"I only know what's in the paperwork. We've never questioned her injuries," Migliaccio said. "It's not Matthew's fault, or it's not 100 percent Matthew's fault."
Migliaccio alleged that Lloyd was sitting on top of a picnic table, rather than at the table's bench, at the time of the incident.
"If she had been sitting on the bench it would have gone right over her head," he said.
He also claimed that Lloyd hugged and forgave his son a few weeks after the incident, when the team presented her with flowers in apology. But, "as soon as they got my homeowner's [insurance] information, things changed," Migliaccio said.
Lloyd's attorney, Riaz Mian, did not immediately return a call requesting comment in response to this article.
Migliaccio, who has not had any contact with the Lloyds since the lawsuit was filed, said that he would like to avoid going to trial "at all costs," but he realizes that is a possibility. Attorneys are currently in the discovery phase, and Migliaccio said that a trial could be as far as a year and a half away.
Former teachers and coaches have thrown their support behind Matthew and are willing to — should it come to it — testify to his character at trial, according to his father.
"You're not going to find a person who says he's the kind of kid who would do this [intentionally]," Migliaccio said. "I'm not saying this because I'm his dad."