Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — Three years after his savage beating at the hands of Los Angeles fans at Dodger Stadium drew attention to sporting event violence, Bryan Stow was awarded about $14 million when a jury found the team was negligent.
For one juror, the award to the 45-year-old paramedic and San Francisco Giants fan who is now brain damaged sent a clear message about the need for better security at sporting events.
The Dodgers “did have a (security) plan but somewhere along the line that plan broke. And it needed to be fixed,” juror Carlos Munoz said after Wednesday’s verdict.
“Hopefully we helped to fix it. … If you’re going to own a stadium, do it right.”
But sports law experts said the amount, not huge for major franchises valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, may not change the way they do business.
“For a major league team it’s certainly a reminder that security is crucial,” said Michael McCann, founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire.
However, he added, “I don’t think it’s going to be a game-changer in terms of how teams look at security.”
McCann said it may have a bigger effect on smaller teams that don’t have the kind of resources the Dodgers have.
“If injuries like these can give rise to these types of damages, for minor league teams this can be a more significant amount,” McCann said.
In the wake of the attack, the Dodgers and Los Angeles police made a series of concrete moves, increasing their security at games, including adding more patrols and undercover officers wearing rival team jerseys. San Francisco made similar moves.
However, the Stow case didn’t necessarily have an industry-wide effect, and any changes it brought in event security were tiny compared to the massive overhaul that came a decade earlier after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The jury agreed Wednesday, however, that the Dodgers security was inadequate, and the team was partly to blame for the attack on fans.
Stow’s father said his son probably wouldn’t understand the details of the settlement that will give him about $14 million from the Dodgers, “but Bryan will know that he got some help today.”
“He’s not going to be 100 percent, maybe for a long time, maybe never. What he gets is going to help him through now, and that’s what he needs,” Dave Stow said.
The jury delivered its verdict in a Los Angeles courtroom after weeks of testimony about the assault on fans after the opening day game in 2011 between the rival teams.
Stow was in the courtroom for part of the trial, his wheelchair positioned front and center so jurors could see the ghastly scars on his head where his skull was temporarily removed during efforts to save his life.
Experts testified that the former Northern California paramedic will never work again and has suffered repeated strokes and seizures. They said he will require around-the-clock care.
Lawyers for Stow claimed the team and former owner Frank McCourt failed to provide adequate security. In split decisions, jurors found that the Dodgers were negligent but absolved McCourt. In civil cases, only nine of 12 jurors must agree on the verdict.
Jurors determined that Stow suffered about $18 million in damages in the form of lost earnings, medical expenses and pain and mental suffering. The Dodgers must pay $13.9 million of that because while finding the team negligent, jurors assigned it only a portion of the responsibility for Stow’s harm.
Stow’s attackers shared the rest of the responsibility for Stow’s harm, jurors determined. However, they weren’t sued and so cannot be required to pay a share of the damages.
The complicated civil case even threw jurors at one point, who announced last week that they were deadlocked. The judge ordered them to resume deliberations.
“They struggled through it,” Dana Fox, an attorney for the Dodgers, said after the verdict. “Remember, after four days they had not found liability on the part of the defendants. That is quite telling, I think, in and of itself.”
Stow’s parents pronounced themselves satisfied with the jury’s award even though it is less than half of what they had sought.
“We’ll make it work for him,” said Stow’s mother, Ann Stow.
In San Francisco, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he was happy for the family that there was finally a verdict.
“What happened shouldn’t have happened. We have to keep that in mind. But also for the fans coming to the ballpark, you need the proper security,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a situation where you’re afraid to go to a game or you can’t enjoy yourself.”
Associated Press writers Antonio Gonzalez in San Francisco, and Raquel Maria Dillon and Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles contributed to this report.