Ex-Dodgers Owner Wins, Team Loses in Liability Ruling for Beating Victim

Thursday, July 10, 2014
Bryan Stow (photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury took nine days to decide that the Dodgers were mostly responsible for the post-game parking lot beating in March 2011 that left Bryan Stow permanently brain damaged, but exonerated the team’s owner and declined to blame the victim.

Stow will get around $15 million from the Dodgers, who got tagged with all his medical bills and lost earnings, and 25% of the liability. The jury was split 9-3 in its decision, with some in favor of assigning owner Frank McCourt a piece of the blame.

The two men who beat Stow senseless and are in prison for assault shared in the liability but probably don’t have any money.

None of the jurors favored the Dodger argument that Stow was partly responsible for the incident on opening day against the arch-rival San Francisco Giants. Stow was drunk (0.18% blood-alcohol level), wearing a Giants jersey and reportedly gesticulating with a couple of guys in the stands during the game.

Afterward, there were words and a physical confrontation between Stow’s group and the two men. After they were separated, one of the men jumped Stow and beat him up. He was comatose for six months and in a hospital for more than a year.

Stow, the 45-year-old father of two small children, is in terrible shape. He is wheelchair-bound, unable to care for himself and has limited cognitive abilities. His family asked for $37.5 million and got a little less than half.   

Stow’s lawyer, Tom Girardi, argued that the ballpark and the parking lot were unnecessarily and unexpectedly unsafe. He said lighting was limited and security personnel scarce. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Girardi’s accusation at trial that Dodger Stadium “was a total mess. There was a culture of violence. Beer sales were off the charts.”

The Dodgers argued that they had the best security in Major League Baseball (MLB).

McCourt was accused of ignoring a growing danger at the ballpark while shifting resources to pay for his extravagant lifestyle, which eventually included a costly and very public divorce. McCourt bought the Dodgers in 2004, leveraging South Boston parking lot property to obtain a crown jewel of baseball he had trouble maintaining.

His ownership was marked by shaky team performance blamed in part on limited financial resources. McCourt filed for divorce in 2009. The next year, a judge tossed out his pre-nuptial agreement and his wife, Jamie, claimed half the team was hers. MLB announced in April 2011 it was taking over day-to-day management of the team.

McCourt tried to sell the team to Fox, but MLB rejected the deal and two months later the Dodgers filed for bankruptcy. 

The McCourts agreed to a divorce settlement in October 2011. The Los Angeles Times suggested it might be the costliest divorce in history ($20.6 million in legal bills). Jamie received assets worth around $130 million and Frank kept the team.

Good move, Frank.

He reached an agreement with MLB to put the team up for sale and in March 2012, one year after the Stow beating and ensuing miserable publicity, he sold the team for a record $2 billion to a group including former baseball executive Stan Kasten and the Guggenheim Partners, and fronted by former NBA basketball star Magic Johnson.

Jamie tried to relitigate the divorce settlement after Frank’s windfall sale, but failed.

–Ken Broder 


To Learn More:

Jury Awards $18M in Dodgers Beating Case (by Matt Reynolds, Courthouse News Service)

Jury: Dodgers Partly Responsible for Stow Beating (by Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle)

Dodgers Found Negligent in Beating of Giants Fan (by Jonathan Lloyd, NBC Southern California)

Dodgers, Not McCourt, Found Liable in Bryan Stow Beating Case (by Corina Knoll and Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times)

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