A jury on Wednesday found the Los Angeles Dodgers negligent in a 2011 assault on a fan at their stadium that left him permanently disabled, ordering the team to pay some $15 million in civil damages but clearing the former club owner of liability.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury reached its verdict on the ninth day of deliberations over the lawsuit brought by Bryan Stow, a father of two and former paramedic from northern California who was beaten by two men in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after a season-opening game against the San Francisco Giants.
The lawsuit alleged that the Dodgers and Frank McCourt, who was the team’s owner at the time, were to blame for lax stadium security that Stow said created an unsafe atmosphere where criminals felt emboldened to prey on others.
But defense attorneys argued that blame lay instead with the two men, Louis Sanchez and Marvin Norwood, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the attack and were sentenced to prison terms of eight and four years, respectively.
The jury agreed the two men were mostly responsible for the harm caused to Stow but also found that the Dodgers as a team bore 25 percent of the responsibility.
Under the law, the finding of negligence as a substantial factor in the harm Stow suffered rendered the Dodgers 100 percent liable for $14 million in damages awarded for his economic losses, such as lost earnings and medical bills.
But the Dodgers bear only 25 percent of liability for the additional $4 million awarded for pain and suffering, bringing the total judgment against the team to $15 million.
Stow, 45, who was present in a wheelchair for two days of the trial, was not at the courthouse for the verdict. He had sought more than $37 million for past and future medical care, lost earnings and the college education of his two children.
Still, his parents and lawyers said they were happy with the verdict. “This is a nice nest egg for his family, desperately needed,” Stow attorney Thomas Girardi told reporters.
Defense lawyer Dana Fox said no decisions about a possible appeal have been made.
The six men and six women who heard the case had told the judge last week that they were unable to reach a verdict but were ordered to continue deliberating.
In the end they split 9-3 both in favor of finding the Dodgers negligent and of exonerating McCourt, who sold the team to new owners in 2012.
Jurors were unanimous in clearing Stow himself of any negligence in the incident, despite defense claims that he was drunk at the time and may have helped instigate the attack.
(Reporting by Dana Feldman; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Peter Cooney and Eric Walsh)