The family of Bryan Stow sued the Dodgers this week
for negligence, arguing the stadium failed to provide sufficient security guards who could have prevented the 42-year-old Giants fan from being knocked into a coma after the opener game March 31.
But personal injury lawyers say the Stow family will have to prove that the Dodgers should have been able to foresee the likelihood of such a brutal attack, and that the beating could have been prevented if the team and Dodger Stadium had taken action.
"California courts have been extremely pro-landowner, pro-Chamber of Commerce on this issue for the last 20 years," says San Francisco attorney Mike Kelly.
Kelly represented the family of Tony Bologna in their lawsuit against San Francisco, which claimed that the city's sanctuary city ordinance allowed the
undocumented suspect to kill Bologna and his two sons in 2008. A San
Francisco judge threw out the case.
"You have to be able to show that if it's an expensive fix, like hiring on more security guards or installing cameras, there's a high probability that [a violent act] is going to happen," Kelly says.
clearly spells out its case for why the Dodgers should have known it was just a matter of time before a crime like the attack on Stow would occur.
"There are more instances of criminal activity in Dodger Stadium than in any other Major League Baseball Stadium," the suit states. The family alleges similar incidents, including a death, have happened at the stadium since 2004. They also say that criminals and gang members use games as a place to meet, plan, and carry out crimes.
While knowing this, the stadium still cut security. The cutbacks, the suit alleges, "accelerated since 2009 primarily as a cost-saving measure due to owner and principal Frank McCourt's financial mismanagement and family woes."
"If that's true, then there's a real basis for the lawsuit," says Eustace de Saint Phalle, another San Francisco-based personal injury attorney who has represented several clients who were injured at large music venues. "If someone has a lot of security issues going on and they intentionally want to stick their head in the sand, that's not reasonable ... the standard is what a reasonably prudent person would have done due to the knowledge they had or should have had."
The suit states that Stow and five friends -- all in black and orange Giants gear -- were harassed as soon as they got out of a cab at the stadium. Security did nothing during the game while some men threw hot dogs, peanuts, and wrappers at Stow and his friends. After the game, Stow was beaten in the parking lot, yet it took 10 to 15 minutes for Dodgers security to respond, according to the suit.
The suit says the Dodgers failed to take precautions like curbing alcohol consumption, and not letting gang members or criminals into the games. There was insufficient security and lighting in the parking lot or the taxi line area where Stow was attacked.
But Kelly says it seems that only the security complaint is will stand up in court. California has a no-liability alcohol policy, and it's difficult to identify gang members. (Plus that might raise substantial civil rights issues.)
The suit states that punitive damages against the Dodgers would "discourage similar conduct in the future."
"Often these cases aren't just about money," says Saint Phalle. "It's about holding the corporation responsible when they try to cut back on people's safety. The reason we have a court system is to try to prevent these things from happening again."Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF