Dodgers, not McCourt, found liable in Bryan Stow beating case

 

Los Angeles Times

Bryan Stow may never fully comprehend the nearly $18 million awarded him Wednesday by a Los Angeles jury.

Over the last six weeks, the brain-injured 45-year-old often forgot why his parents were absent from their Capitola, Calif., home and asked when they planned to return.

"When the trial is finished," they would remind him.

After four weeks of testimony and nine days of deliberations, the trial ended with the jury's 9-3 finding that the Los Angeles Dodgers share responsibility for Stow's injuries along with Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood, who were convicted earlier this year of the assault. Former owner Frank McCourt was found not liable for the March 31, 2011, attack.

The Dodgers are on the hook for $13.9 million of the jury's verdict, according to the ballclub's attorney.

"I couldn't believe it," Ann Stow, Bryan's mother, said after the verdict was read in Judge Victor E. Chavez's courtroom. "It was like a big weight off of our shoulders. We waited three years to hear that, and it's finally over."

Juror Alex Valdez, a cook for L.A. County, said he had voted to find McCourt responsible as well.

"I thought Mr. McCourt could've done something more," he said. Valdez said he also would have liked to give an additional $10 million to the family, but that the jury relied on the defense's figures when it came to breaking down Stow's medical costs. The deadlock was 8-4, Valdez said, until a probate attorney on the panel reviewed the evidence further and changed her vote.

Another juror, Carlos Munoz of Rosemead, said he believed the Dodgers did have a security plan in place, "but somewhere along the line that plan broke down."

He said he was emotionally affected by testimony about the San Francisco Giants fan's physical and cognitive disabilities. "It would pull at anybody's heartstrings, but we had to go by the evidence," Munoz said.

Led by attorney Thomas Girardi, the plaintiffs alleged the Dodgers and McCourt were to blame because of shoddy security and poor lighting.

Former Dodgers security personnel testified that the organization was ill-equipped to handle the massive crowd that arrived for opening day in 2011.

"This is the first security job that I had worked where there really wasn't any order to how things should be done as far as my safety, the protection of fans," said one former guard, who added that he had been told security was short-staffed that day.

The jury also heard from the two security guards who were assigned to Parking Lot 2, where Stow was beaten, but who arrived well after the attack took place. And the current head of security for the Dodgers admitted that he left the organization for a year in part because he disagreed with the team's decision to reduce the number of uniformed off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officers at games, instead relying more on guards who earned less and wore polo shirts.

Sanchez, who was witnessed harassing fans and spraying soda on a young couple during the game, should have been kicked out long before he ever encountered Stow in the parking lot, Girardi argued.

But the defense countered that opening day that year marked the then-largest security force in the history of Dodger Stadium. It also presented evidence that the Dodgers had increased spending on security every year. The team's security expert was well-established with industry credentials and said that the Dodgers followed an impressive security protocol. There was no way the organization could have prevented such a brutal attack, he said.

Defense attorney Dana Fox was tough on witnesses during cross-examination; at one point he challenged a security expert's resume and likened him to nothing more than "an armchair quarterback."

The real culprits, Fox said, were Sanchez and Norwood. Stow's own intoxication that night was also to blame, he said.

Although the jurors found that the Dodgers shared just 25 percent of the liability for Stow's injuries, assigning the rest of the blame to his assailants, the organization is responsible under California law for the entirety of his medical bills and lost earnings. The team is required to pay only a quarter of the more than $5 million that jurors said Stow should receive for his pain and suffering.

Fox said his clients offered to settle before the trial and again after it started. He said the team hadn't decided whether to appeal.

Girardi said he had hoped for a larger monetary award in terms of Stow's future medical costs, but called it a "a good verdict for the family" that would take the economic pressure off Stow's parents.

The Stows, who have stayed in Los Angeles since May, said they were happy that the jury unanimously found that their son was not negligent that night.

"I held my breath when that came up," Ann Stow said. "We know Bryan is nothing like the defense portrayed him."

Although elated with the trial outcome, the Stows said the ordeal for their family will never really end. Their son will always have brain injuries and physical limitations. And Dave Stow said that the trial had dredged up details about a night that will always be incomprehensible to him.

"Bryan was injured for life," he said. "And I just can't understand that."

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