Crime & Justice

Bryan Stow trial: Jury decides against Dodgers, awards $18M in damages

Bryan Stow's mother and father leave the downtown Los Angeles courthouse surrounded news photographers on Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
Bryan Stow's mother and father leave the downtown Los Angeles courthouse surrounded news photographers on Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
Shirley Jahad/KPCC

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Jurors have found the former ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers negligent and partially responsible for the brutal beating that left a Giants fan permanently brain damaged. They found Frank McCourt was not personally responsible. They awarded about $18 million to the family to cover past and future medical expenses.

The former Dodgers ownership is responsible for roughly $15 million of the $18 million in damages. That breaks down to nearly $14 million for the economic damages and a quarter, or $1 million, of the pain and suffering damages. The men convicted of the attack on Stow were found liable for the other $3 million.

Bryan Stow’s family members, including his mother, sat in the front row of the courtroom as the verdict was read. The jury found Stow himself was not at all negligent or responsible in the attack against him.

His mother Ann Stow says she was very pleased with that part of the ruling from the jurors. “None of them attributed any of this to Bryan,” she told reporters outside the downtown L.A. courthouse .

“We know our son. And we know the picture that the defense was trying to portray was not Bryan at all,” she said. Lawyers for the former Dodgers ownership tried to convince the jury that Stow himself was partly to blame for the attack.

Ann Stow called the outcome a victory. “And it’s a big weight off our shoulders,” she said. “The trial was scheduled and rescheduled a couple of times. It’s nice to know we are standing here with a verdict in Bryan’s favor.”

Lawyers for the former Dodgers ownership emerged from the courthouse saying it's too soon to tell whether they will appeal. “We don’t necessarily agree with every part of the decision, but we certainly respect the decision,” said lead attorney Dana Fox. “This is a jury that did what it was asked to do and reached a very considered verdict.” He also pointed out that the jury awarded the family less than half of the tens of millions of dollars their lawyers requested.

The family of the 45-year-old Stow brought the civil suit saying Frank McCourt and the former Dodgers ownership were lax in providing security at Dodger Stadium.

"It's a good verdict for the family," said attorney Tom Girardi after the verdict was read. "This is going to go a long way to helping this family."

No police or security officers were in the parking lot where Stow was beaten after the game opening day in 2011. Stow was hit from behind, fell to the ground and was kicked and beaten. He was in a coma for six months and hospitalized for more than a year. He is permanently brain damaged and needs help with basic daily care, including showering and going to the bathroom. He is trying to relearn to walk but may require several more surgeries to do so. Louis Sanchez and Marvin Norwood are serving time in prison after pleading guilty in the assault.

Lawyers for the former Dodgers ownership argued Sanchez, Norwood and Stow himself were the only ones responsible for the attack. They said the team spent more for security that day than any other opening game in Dodger history. They said McCourt and the team ownership met their obligation to provide safety for fans and that the beating was a “testosterone fueled,” “alcohol induced” flash fight that was over in seconds.

In his closing argument, Stow family attorney Girardi said Stow, a former paramedic, did nothing to contribute to the fight. "The only thing Bryan was doing wrong was wearing a jersey that said 'Giants.'" He said the event didn’t unfold in seconds. He said hours before the beating, the Dodgers should have thrown Sanchez and Norwood out of the ballpark, as they were harassing people starting in the second inning. He told the jury the Dodgers “didn’t do doodly squat.”  

“The Dodgers didn’t meet their duty, didn’t act in a responsible manner,” Girardi said, repeatedly telling the jury, “If they did, Stow would not have been injured.”

“My client is required to act reasonably, not perfectly,” Dana Fox, lead attorney for the former Dodgers ownership, told the jury in closing arguments. Fox reminded the jury of the instruction from the court not to let sympathy influence the verdict. He told jurors, “Set the sympathy aside and be objective.”

Fox argued the amount of money the Stow family was asking for was “far beyond reason” and told jurors no amount of money will make Stow “un-brain damaged.”

Throughout the trial jurors heard from stadium security experts, eye witnesses, investigators and Dodgers executives, including Frank McCourt himself.

This story has been updated.