LA Dodgers Hit With $14 Million Judgment Over Beating of Giants Fan in 2011

Los_Angeles_Dodgers_Logogavel2A jury found the Los Angeles Dodgers partially responsible for a Giants fan’s savage beating in a stadium parking lot in 2011 and that partial liability will cost the team must nearly $14 million. The team was found 25 percent responsible for the extensive injuries to Bryan Stow, 45, which comes to precisely $13.9 million for their share when all of Stow’s medical bills and lost earnings are factored in.

Stow, a 45-year-old paramedic who went to the 2011 opening day game in Los Angeles, was beaten nearly to death in a parking lot after the game. He now requires 24-hour care from his family.

The case is a cautionary tale for all professional teams. We have discussed (and heralded) the actions of a few stadiums to crackdown on thugs and drunks but such actions still remain the exception to the rule. As many of us have lamented over the years, I rarely take my kids to stadiums, particularly football stadiums, because of all of the swearing and drunks in the stands. You have to sit there as people scream profanities and act like thugs in front of children. It is simply no fun for families. Even without kids, I find it hard to watch a game with people acting out adolescent, beer-soaked impulses. However, even with the loss of families, few stadiums do anything about it and are finding new ways to get more alcohol in the hands of fans.

022014_housley_fanattack22_640In this case, the jury found that the team was partially responsible for the attack when it failed to eject the two attackers earlier from the game for bad behavior and then failed to properly monitor the parking area which had little security and little light. We previously discussed the cases of Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood — two prototypical sports thugs. Both Dodgers fans pleaded guilty to the attack and received eight and four years respectively for their crimes.

Normally, criminal or violent acts cut off proximate causation in tort cases as superseding intervening acts. However, there are exceptions when such violence is clearly foreseeable. Thus, in the case of Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Avenue. In Kline a landlord was found liable for not taking precautions to protect tenants from crime in an apartment building in Washington. That case involved a tenant who remained on the property during years of decline of the neighborhood in Washington, D.C., but continued as an at-will tenant. She was aware of the crime in the area and the building. However, the court still held that the landlord was liable even though he met housing regulations. He still violated the implied warranty of habitability.

Perhaps with this judgment, team owners will begin to spend more on security and more actively expel unruly fans. It is not only the reasonable and decent thing to do but they just may find that more families (and fans of other teams) are willing to come to their stadiums. I recall that when my sister-in-law and one of her nieces went to the White Sox stadium to watch the game with the Cubs (the “subway series”) last year, fans proceeded to throw beer on them and scream profanities — simply because a woman and little girl were wearing Cubs hats. They were then ridiculed by other White Sox fans as they walked to their car. Such experiences guarantee that they will not return to the stadium but owners continue to leave fans at the mercy of such thugs. This ruling may add a financial reason to act where simple decency failed to motivate owners and teams.

Source: LA Times

39 thoughts on “LA Dodgers Hit With $14 Million Judgment Over Beating of Giants Fan in 2011”

  1. Nick – I don’t have experience with the court system, so sometimes find it shocking.

    The Dodger attorney tried to paint the situation as “two drunk guys got into a brawl.” But this was contrary to all evidence. Every eye witness, including strangers who did not know Stowe, claimed that he tried to avoid confrontations with the rowdy fans. He was targeted because he was wearing a Giants jersey. Apparently he thought it was safe for all fans at at the stadium. He did not engage with them at the seats, and tried to ignore them. Then he sat in his seats and told his friends he wanted to give the troublesome fans plenty of time to leave before they cleared out. And the attack was a complete blindside to Stowe. The guy just walked up behind him and cold cocked him. He was unconscious on the way down, which is why his skull slammed into the concrete so hard. It was non-contributory that Stowe was legally drinking, as he was not exhibiting any nuisance behavior, he had spread out I think 6 beers over the whole day, and he had a designated driver.

    It appeared to be the old “throw poop against the wall and see what sticks method.”

    What is especially sad is that this guy was divorced with young kids. He’s not going to experience their milestones, as he’ll be in an assisted living facility, nor will he be able to contribute financially. I wonder if he’ll be allowed to use this settlement to make his child support payments. Their mom is really going to struggle otherwise. Are there any restrictions on settlements like these that they have to go only to medical expenses?

  2. East St. Louis is almost entirely black. Quite sadly, for me anyway, is the paucity of non Hispanic black fans @ MLB ballparks. When you see black folk @ games it’s almost always old, black, men.

  3. St. Louis baseball fans are some of the most civil anywhere. I have been to probably a dozen games over the span of 1976 to 2012. Always pleasant. I took my son to a game in 1998 when McGuire was in the mid 50’s on his home run chase. We went to sellouts on a Friday and Saturday. Lots of families. And ironically, the team was owned by Budweiser, or at least Bud’s owners. I imagine it’s a different corporation.

  4. Saucy, I agree w/ you in general. However, @ all ballpark there is the crowd, gang, herd, testosterone, competition factor. I have seen people I know well act out of character. I saw this one guy MANY times in different circumstances drinking. Always a good natured, in control drinker. But, one time a group of a-holes just set him off and he went ballsitic.

  5. Nick, you and the others here all blame the booze, but booze merely lowers inhibitions. In other words, a person who is violent when drunk is actually a violent person deep down inside. That’s why if a guy beats his wife/girlfriend when drunk, she would be well-advised to leave him because it will happen every time he drinks (if a guy beats his wife/girlfriend when sober, he’s even worse).

    I cannot remember if you said you attended games in St. Louis. Given that East St. Louis has been one of the most dangerous areas in the entire country for decades, I wonder if that is manifested at the park.

  6. There is a direct conflict of interest between professional sports teams and beer companies. Beer companies are major sponsors, owners, and hell I went to Miller Park yesterday. I have been to 26 MLB ballparks and maybe a dozen NFL venues. There are some factors sports teams have control over, and some they don’t. The biggest factor teams don’t have control over is the city in which they reside. The northeast has unruly, belligerent, sometimes vile fans. They also have a tradition of drinking heavily in bars prior to going to the game. There are many fans who enter the game who would blow a .020. I do not know of any teams that do this, but if I were a stadium manager I would have cops @ the gate w/ a breathalyzer. If someone is over .010, no entry.

    Philly has the most unruly fans in this country. They take a perverse pride in it. The Eagles set up a magistrate court where unruly fans are immediately processed. They have cops patrolling the parking lots evicting unruly fans. It is a tough crowd and Philly takes tough measures. Target Field in Minneapolis, very civil Norwegians. Thankfully they don’t serve Norwegian food there. You can take your kids and not be bothered. All MLB ballparks have Family Sections where no alcohol is allowed. I can tell you, in Milwaukee it is enforced. I got a single ticket to see Nolan Ryan go for his 300th victory in County Stadium. It was in the Family Section. I had a soda, finished it in the 4th or 5th inning, and took the empty soda cup w/ me to the beer stand. I bought a beer and slyly[I thought!] poured it into the soda cup. I returned to my seat. Within a few minutes a cop came to my seat and told me to either leave the section or give him the beer. Not heavy handed, he was absolutely correct. I apologized and gave him my beer. On a side note, it was odd being in Milwaukee and having everyone cheer for the opposing team.

    The fans can differ even within a city. Wrigley is much more civilized than Comiskey[I still call the Palehose park that]. Cub fans are more yuppie and care more about being @ Wrigley than watching that wretched team out on the field. White Sox fans are more ethnic, blue collar, brawling types. Same city, much different security needed.

    This is a complex issue. The teams have, to varying degrees, taken steps within the past decade or so to get a handle on this problem. But, @ the core of the problem is the inherent conflict of interest w/ the beer industry.

  7. Karen, I completely understand your anger @ the defense putting some blame on Stowe. Now, there are decent ways for a defense attorney to attempt to prove the plaintiffs contributory negligence and nasty ways. I would need more details on how the Dodgers attorney presented the plaintiff’s drinking. But, for the attorney to not pursue that would be legal malpractice. Regarding the damages and the Dodger attorney presenting medical/actuarial evidence about the plaintiffs life expectancy, that is completely legit. Most damages[amount defendant pays] are an equation based on data, like medical costs, job retraining, life expectancy, future lost earnings based on education/profession, and other factors. Both sides provide their data and equations. Yea, it’s cold but it’s the fairest way to do it. The reason your child gets much more medical testing and care, compared to your parents, is because of the way damages are computed. Your son has another 80 or more years to be factored into the equation, his 75 year old grandparent, just a multiplier of maybe 5.

  8. The verdict if fully justified in my view. Those who question its size would benefit from seeing the economic analysis presented by plaintiff’s counsel.

  9. I agree with the verdict also.

    As Karen mentions having adequate uniformed police and plain clothes officers at large sporting events is important to address unruly fans.

    Ignoring problematic fans will eventually lead to events such as this.

  10. Jonathan: “Perhaps with this judgment, team owners will begin to spend more on security and more actively expel unruly players.”

    And perhaps they will work to control unruly fans at the game, too.

  11. Oh, and the reason why this judgement was high was because Stowe suffered a traumatic brain injury when his head slammed into the cement. I followed this story, and they never expected him to wake up. He was predicted to either die or remain in a vegetative state. He eventually did wake up, but he will spend the rest of his life in a long-term care facility, and is not expected to have a normal lifespan. He is a young man, in his thirties if I recall correctly. And he had kids. I doubt someone of his age had long-term nursing care insurance. His care is going to cost millions of dollars, projected to be more than $40 million. His kids were young, and their father as they knew him is forever lost to them.

    Another ploy the Dodgers used was to criticize the estimate of his cost of care. He stated that Stowe will likely die younger than Stowe’s doctors had projected, which would lower the cost of his care. Isn’t that nice? We shouldn’t have to pay as much because the guy will probably die sooner?

  12. What I recall from this case was that even though Stowe had also been drinking, he had a designated driver. And he is one of those for whom alcohol makes them mellower. It must be his innate nature, because all eyewitnesses stated that he did everything he could to avoid a confrontation, including waited in his seat until long after the rowdy fans left.

    I was angered when the Dodgers lawyer asserted that Stowe bore some of the responsibility for being blindsided because he’d been drinking too. But he was not out of control, and he had done his best to de-escalate.

    It would have been nice if the Dodgers had right away tried to make things right and offered him a settlement. Especially since they seem to have deliberately catered to rowdies and maximized alcohol at their events. I know the players acted with class after this happened.

  13. I’ve been following this case, and completely agree with the verdict. Most of the blame lies with the people who beat Brian Stowe. But the Dodgers did not follow their own security guidelines. They read from their own SOP book, and they weren’t doing any of that. They had ceded the stadium to drunks, gangs, and rowdies, and it had become completely unsafe for families to bring kids to America’s Pastime. They just gave up on family customers and kept pouring on the alcohol to keep the rest of their fans happy (and a menace on the road afterward.) The security staff they do have just sit around, for the most part. And their profit margin is high enough that they could just hire off-duty police for games if their own staff is incompetent. If it were me, I would fire almost all of the security staff and replace them with off-duty cops. One of our friends is an LAPD and he works security in his off-time (as well as minor movie roles.) I’d trust him much more in a dangerous environment like that than a regular security guard.

    Stadiums have really gone in decline. I was at the game when the Lakers won their first championship in years at Staples Center when excited fans started fires outside and rolled cars. I just got out of there as fast as I could and when people got in front of my car, kept slowly rolling, refused to stop, and prayed people weren’t too drunk or foolish to get their feet squashed. When I saw the news coverage later, I was glad I did. It just ruined the whole experience, even though I had really enjoyed the game.

  14. The price of beer at major league stadiums is way too high. That should be the topic of this blog. The amount of money the victim got was way too high. Maybe the jurors had been to a Dodger game and decided to up the ante because the Dodgers up the ante for one darn beer. Turn about is fair play. If ya know what I mean jelly bean.

  15. The poster child for idiotic behavior, I use the word idiotic to cover dozens of derogatory descriptions, the Oakland Raider fans. I went to a game in Oakland and being an A’s fan, I wore an A’s hat. My host directed me to remove the hat and he gave me a Raiders hat. The Raiders were playing Kansas City and although there were obviously Chiefs fans in the audience there was not one speck of red. The only colors were silver, black, white, and grey.

    Before the game started a fan walked down the aisle wearing an A’s hat. The immediate crowd yelled at him until he removed it. He sat in the sun for the entire game without a cap.

    In San Diego a Chargers fan was knifed, on TV by a Raiders fan, in the bleachers.

    The point of a sporting event is to yell and scream at the teams. Cheer them on or cheer down the opposition. When fans go over the line as in the Dogers case, not only is the fine appropriate but 4 and 8 years is about a third of what these animals should have got. They will be out in a third the time and back into the mix. The anger and hatred that caused the beating goes deeper than a baseball game. These mutts should be locked up for attempted murder. They targeted the man and beat him near to death.

    We have a dysfunctional justice system in the US. We incarcerate people when they should be getting help and we slap wrists when we should be separating animals from the public for a minimum of twenty years.

  16. The Dodgers got what they deserved. As to the comment about the Cubs fans being verbally abused and doused with beer at a White Sox game, while it should be dealt with by management, it unfortunately happens at many ball parks when playing a rival. It also happens at Bears/Packer games. If the teams management don’t control it, it will continue to happen. When football teams and some baseball teams allow tailgating prior to games, they are just increasing the chances of drunk patrons attending the game. Trouble follows.

  17. People who set among rabid fans from the opposing team are likely to get pelted with all sorts of things. These are usually the season ticket holders and they are the ones the team wants to hold on to so they are going to cater to them, not the woman with the kid who got terrorized by sitting in the wrong section. I have been to football games between intense rivals where things went bad. However, people did not get beaten to this point. There certainly was property damage though.
    In this case, I think the jury is right. they are selling too much beer at these things and too many people are too drunk to make good decisions. I know some stadiums have a cut off point, which is good, but they all should.

  18. JT wrote ” I find it hard to watch a game with people acting out adolescent, beer-soaked impulses”

    Alcohol only suppresses inhibitions. In other words, if someone is a savage when he is drunk, his base personality is that of a savage. The problem is not alcohol.

    “simply because a woman and little girl were wearing Cubs hats”

    This is the confirmation of the above. Our incompetent education system combined with a philosophy of “anything goes” has logically led to this point. In the past, savages would only harass men, but now even little girls are fair game.

    Just wait. It’s going to become much worse, especially as the legacy of years of only creating low-paid, part-time jobs makes its presence known.

    P.S. Did you hear that Justin Bieber and Vitalii Sediuk received probation yet again? We could have set an example on the subject of spoiled flakes, but, as usual, we voted to keep the money flowing.

  19. Having worked many sexual assault tort cases where businesses are sued for negligence, lighting is often the issue. That’s why when you stay @ a motel it always looks like it’s noon outside your room even when it’s midnight. This was a righteous decision. There are many posts here of juries getting it wrong. They much more often get it right.

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