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Bryan Stow’s lawyers estimate his damages to be $50 million

Sep 12, 2011, 10:41 PM EDT

Image of Dodger Stadium beating victim Stow is shown on scoreboard before MLB National League baseball game between San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in San Francisco, California Reuters

You always have to take a damage claim in a lawsuit with a grain of salt. Either they’re small because the plaintiff is simply alleging enough to meet a jurisdictional threshold for the particular court they’re in — claiming, say, “no less than $15,000” to make it clear the suit doesn’t belong in small claims court — or else it’s comically large for the purposes of getting attention (“Plaintiff demands $7 billion for emotional distress following the willful and wanton destruction of his couch cushion fort by defendant”). The point is that the complaint in a lawsuit does not tie the plaintiff to a certain amount of damages.

But as the case progresses, the damages do have to be established with specificity. And proven, once the case has been reduced to judgment in favor of the plaintiff.  To that end, there will be discovery, filings and other bits of info that reveal the damages case the plaintiffs plan to put on when the time comes.

That process is beginning in the Bryan Stow case against the Los Angeles Dodgers arising out of his near-fatal beating on Opening Day.  The damage claim at the moment: $50 million.

That’s a lot of money. But Bryan Stow is in a really bad way. He’s had months of around-the-clock medical care in ICU or near-ICU conditions. He faces many more months if not years — and if not that, the rest of his life — in a similar situation. He’ll likely never work again. And that’s before you put a price on his pain, his suffering and that of his family.  I could totally see a $50 million claim that isn’t off-the-charts crazy, even if such an amount is unlikely to be ultimately awarded (and even then, only if it’s found that the Dodgers are responsible).

Which — and pardon me if this comes off as insensitive — is a reminder of a nasty little truth they teach you back in law school.  The lesson: in purely monetary terms, a defendant is better off if his negligence actually kills someone — preferably instantly — than if it merely severely maims them and/or kills them after some long period of time. Or, as my very colorful torts professor put it “if you run someone over in your car, look in the rear view mirror: if they’re moving around, back up and finish them off. Your insurance company will thank you.”

Yes, he was kidding, but the point was still illustrative: pain, suffering and a life cast into ruin is, at least in legal terms, far more costly than a life swiftly taken.  There are practical reasons for this (e.g. the pain is compensible and a person who dies fast doesn’t have much of it) and reasons which involve legal tactics (e.g. a jury is often more moved by a video of a person in a hospital bed than they are by an out-of-sight, out-of-mind dead person).  And while it may reveal a weird aspect of human psychology, the fact is that jurors are also more deeply affected by weeping caregiving wives of living persons who are incapacitated than they are by weeping widows.

Early this morning I mentioned my dark humor and bluntness when it comes to matters of tragedy.  You can thank law school for a whole hell of a lot of that.

  1. schlom - Sep 12, 2011 at 10:44 PM

    Brian Stow (and his family) probably don’t care if he gets $50m, or $25m or $10m. However I’m sure his lawyers do.

    • hcf95688 - Sep 12, 2011 at 11:02 PM

      I’m guessing his family definitely cares.

    • The Common Man - Sep 12, 2011 at 11:10 PM

      Yeah, considering that someone is going to have to eventually take care of his medical expenses, I’m sure the family has a strong interest in making sure that they can continue to do that for as long as it takes.

  2. cur68 - Sep 12, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    I’m struck by not only the whole escalating legal side of what happened to Mr. Stow but also by your deep levels of “dark humor and bluntness” when contemplating humanity, Craig. I’m not sure I know what to say in regards to either, frankly. I chose my turf because I never know what to say. No one really expects the severely preterm to make it, so expectations are pretty low. I get to win (mostly) and I lose, too, but no one really expects us to do any better than we’d done (excepting those cases where stupidity, ignorance, or mistakes were made. Then there’s hell to pay).

    However, I’d like to say that I’m grateful you aren’t lawyering anymore. Because i too have to thank my education and work life for my levels of despair over humanity, I think I understand. I’m grateful that you care enough abut the situation to keep us updated on how things are going for Mr. Stow, even if its not always good news. This legal wrangle will play out. Probably over years. We’ll all need some stamina to weather it and none will need more than Mr. Stow and his family. I wish them luck and I hope McCourt loses his shirt to pay for what happened on his watch.

    • hcf95688 - Sep 12, 2011 at 11:41 PM

      I hate the Dodgers as much as the next guy, but I don’t see why they have to pay anything. If this happened outside a supermarket or laundromat would you expect the owners of those businesses to pay as well?

      • The Common Man - Sep 12, 2011 at 11:57 PM

        If those institutions were serving alcohol on their premises and owned the parking lots the party was walking through and was clearly neglecting their security obligations, then yes.

      • hcf95688 - Sep 13, 2011 at 12:14 AM

        Common Man – fair enough…but I doubt Bennigan’s or Chevy’s or TGI Friday’s, etc. would agree with you.

      • Kevin S. - Sep 13, 2011 at 12:35 AM

        Actually, they would, because they operate within the established legal standards. Perhaps they might try to argue against it in court, but you can bet your ass they run their operations in a liability-minimizing manner. I’ve bartended before. Trust me, we’re constantly reminded that we’re liable if we serve somebody to the point of inebriation and then that person goes and does something destructive.

      • cur68 - Sep 13, 2011 at 12:44 AM

        ‘course they wouldn’t agree. They’d have to pay. Its hardly comparable anyways. The Ravine holds 10’s of thousands. The other places a few hundred at most. Security is a necessity in a venue that size, not a luxury. They keep the rowdy drunks from getting out of hand. McCourt got rid of his head of security months prior to the the attack. As such its arguable and, indeed, likely that security, which he as the owner was responsible for, was lacking leadership and organization. Fans had been complaining for months that things were bad at the Ravine and getting worse, so this statement is hardly spurious.

        Who else but McCourt is responsible for the sh!tty security? He gives orders to hire or fire a head of security. A security force that was invisible, apparently. Where were the security staff while the 2 attackers made multiple aggressive contacts with other fans during and after the game? How is it that no staff member even saw these 2 people or that there were no security cameras recording the activity in the parking lot? How does anyone run an organization of the size and scope of the Dodgers without decent security? Such a person deserves to lose their shirt for being lax about the state of the team and the running of the venue.

      • yankeesgameday - Sep 13, 2011 at 1:20 AM

        To add one thing to all of the other good comments supporting the Dodgers as the responsible party here… Don’t ever forget that the Bryan stow beating wasn’t the first time this happened.

        Two years ago someone was actually killed after a giants/Dodgers game in the same parking lot. The Dodgers KNEW this level of violence was possible at their place of business and never addressed their security issues. It’s that reason why I think a jury will decimate them.

        50 million might even be light.

      • Roger Moore - Sep 13, 2011 at 1:34 AM

        The Dodgers have some liability because it happened on their property. Every property owner has a responsibility to take steps to protect visitors from reasonably foreseeable harm. That’s why you can be held liable if a passing pedestrian slips on the snow on your unshoveled sidewalk. Slipping and falling on ice is an obvious danger, so you have to take steps to prevent it in order to avoid liability.

        So the question is whether Stow’s beating was a foreseeable harm. Drunken violence is a known risk at any establishment that serves alcohol, which is one reason why professional sports teams have uniformed security guards. Even if it weren’t, the numerous past incidents of fan-on-fan violence at Dodgers/Giants games should have given Dodgers’ management a clue. And in the specific case of Stow, there’s apparently evidence that he was being harassed by Dodgers fans during the game, so there was reason to think he was in danger specifically. Sure, the thugs who beat him up are primarily at fault, but the Dodgers didn’t do a good job of protecting him.

      • hittfamily - Sep 13, 2011 at 2:39 AM

        I’m no legal expert, but I did stay at a holiday inn express last night. That pretty sums up my expertise, but I had to get a word in.

        Of course the Dodgers are liable!!! They host an event that attracts large crowds. They are obligated to protect the safety of their patrons to the best of their ability. I own several real estate properties, and if a dog is allowed to stay in a unit, the owner must have renters insurance. If they do not have renters insurance, I am the one liable for the danger to the neighborhood that dog presents, because I own the home and did not take reasonable steps to protect the neighbors. If the Bennigan’s or TGI Fridays that you referance have a history of violent crime, they are responsible to provide adequate security. Hotels, Restaurants, baseball parking lots: all places who host guests who expect a safe environment. All places who are held responsible when forseeable acts are committed, or where multiple violent acts have occured, and the owners were negligent and not preventing future violent acts.

        I hope Mccouts wife takes half his money, and the Stowe family takes the other half.

  3. Roger Moore - Sep 13, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    One point worth making is that California has joint liability only for economic damages; non-economic injuries are treated severally. Since the guys who actually beat Stow up obviously have most of the liability, and because they’re unlikely to have deep pockets, he’s only going to see a small fraction of whatever pain and suffering judgment he wins. He’ll still be covered for his doctors’ bills and lost wages (assuming the Dodgers or the City of Los Angeles are found even partly liable) but he’s unlikely to get a huge non-economic windfall.

  4. garlicfriesandbaseball - Sep 13, 2011 at 1:23 AM

    ….”and pardon me if this comes off as insensitive …..”

    Of course your comments came off as “insensitive”. How else could they have been taken? I’m still trying to figure out why you felt a need to say them.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Sep 13, 2011 at 7:06 AM

      He said them because it’s a blog, run primarily by him, and an article in which he has a trained form of expertise to breakdown and point out.

      But, please, let’s continue to bash the writer. Because we all know how impossible it is to avoid articles that may make us queasy since they possess sentences and paragraphs that might be upsetting.

      For the record, I took Craig’s comments as a bit of insight from a former lawyer’s perspective. But that’s just how I read.

      • Bryz - Sep 13, 2011 at 5:48 PM

        Ditto. Craig used to be a lawyer. He knows (at least more than I do) what could happen if circumstances were different. Even if they seem rude, or insensitive as he put it, it makes sense in the end.

  5. yankeesgameday - Sep 13, 2011 at 1:25 AM

    Per my above comment: sorry, it was more than two years ago that another giant fan was killed. It was 2003, but that makes no difference here. This is a link to that story:

    • seattlej - Sep 13, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      You’re actually half right. There was a stabbing there in 2009 after a game, though it doesn’t appear that it involved a Giants’ fan. This article mentions the 2003 shooting, as well as another incident in 2005. It seems that incidents such as these just might be reasonably foreseeable…

  6. sasquash20 - Sep 13, 2011 at 3:17 AM

    I think they should go for far more then 50 million. Based on the fact that at least once before someone was attacked and killed at the stadium/parking lot before. How many attacks aside from that have been reported? I’ll bet a lot have. The fact that there douche bag owner was just offered over a billion dollars to sell everything(if it was a legit offer) would make me ask for more.

    I had a friend who about 10 years ago sued the owners of a parking lot outside a concert venue. He started the original fight and kicked the crap out of the guy. The guy came back with a bunch of friends and beat my buddy up pretty good, in fact bit a chunk off of his ear. My friend ended up settling out of court for around 10 grand. This Stow case is a PR nightmare. Dodgers have to do right and settle this for a nice chunk of that 50 million. I hope he wins.

    What goes on at stadiums is insane. The money they make selling booze they should get hit in the pockets. Of course then they just raise the prices again. I actually have stopped drinking at ball games. Not due to cost but to enjoy the game more. I don’t see the need to get half a buzz and end up forgetting most of the game.

  7. trevorb06 - Sep 13, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    I’m not the praying type, but I hope Stow gets better. If he doesn’t at least now his kids and eventual grand kids and go to college and live a good life in their father’s (and eventually grandfather’s) honor.

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