Does Bryan Stow's family have a case against Dodgers?

The negligence lawsuit, filed earlier today in L.A. Superior Court, alleges that cutbacks in security - tied to the team's financial problems and owner Frank McCourt's mismanagement - contributed to the brutal attack of Giants fan Bryan Stow on opening day. The reduced security, along with minimal lighting in the parking lot and a hands-off approach to rowdiness at Dodger Stadium, provided a "perfect opportunity" for the beating, according to the suit. "It's incredible to me how somebody could permit this sort of activity," says high-profile plaintiffs attorney Tom Girardi, who is handling the case. Seems open and shut in the court of public opinion, but the Dodgers may have some case law on their side. From the Daily Journal:

A 1985 decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeal absolved the Dodgers from liability for a parking lot beating. In that case, the court deemed the plaintiff to have been responsible, finding "no one can reasonably contend that even a significant increase in police personnel will prevent all crime or any particular crime." Though a lower court jury had awarded the plaintiff damages, the appellate court tossed that verdict. Noble v. Los Angeles Dodgers Inc., 168 Cal.App.3d 912 (1985) That opinion would likely play a role in any future defense, according to Gregory C. Keating, a professor from USC Gould School of Law.


Girardi said he was aware of the Noble case and said it was going to be "real easy" to get around it. Speaking of the Dodgers' liability, Girardi said, "Once you know you have a real security problem... and then you decide to do nothing about it, you are liable under the law," Girardi said. "Especially when you cut security by two-thirds and fire the security director and sauce everybody up with beer."

The negligence suit comes just days before McCourt faces a cash squeeze that could prevent him from meeting payroll at the end of the month. If that happens, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig presumably would have the authority to seize the franchise and put it up for sale. That could lead to McCourt filing his own, drawn-out lawsuit against MLB. I'm guessing that the Stow suit never sees the light of day - that whoever owns the club (McCourt, MLB or some other entity), will want to settle out of court, even if it means shelling out many millions of dollars. For the Dodgers, this is absolutely a no-win situation; can you imagine a defense attorney arguing that the club shouldn't be held responsible for the beating? Even if the Dodgers have a legitimate defense, there's nothing to be gained by taking this to trial. Here's a copy of the suit, via the LAT.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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