Dodgers: Bryan Stow shares blame
An attorney representing the Dodgers and owner Frank McCourt filed a civil complaint against the two men charged in the Opening Day beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow in Los Angeles Superior Court last week, arguing that they should be held liable for the attack, not McCourt, the team or other parties named in the suit filed by Stow's family in May.
"One of the things the jury will be asked to do is to determine what percentage of fault various individuals have for this event," McCourt's attorney Jerome Jackson told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
They are saying we're 100 percent liable. But does that mean Norwood and Sanchez, who beat this guy up, have no liability? And, does it mean Mr. Stow himself has no liability?” -- Dodgers owner Frank McCourt's
lawyer Jerome Jackson
"You're saying to the jury, 'They (the Stow family) are saying we're 100 percent liable. But does that mean (Marvin) Norwood and (Louis) Sanchez, who beat this guy up, have no liability? And, does it mean Mr. Stow himself has no liability?' "
Jackson said that if the case goes to a jury trial, he will ask jurors to assign percentages of liability to the Dodgers, McCourt, Norwood, Sanchez, Stow and the other entities named in the original suit. If financial damages are awarded, they would be paid out at those percentages.
"I've been doing these cases for 23 years and I have never seen one yet in which it didn't take at least two people to tango," he said, referring to the notion that jurors could decide Stow bears some liability in the attack. "So stay tuned and stand by."
Jackson compared the Stow case to a suit filed by a woman named Maria Para Helenius, who lost sight in one of her eyes after being involved in a fight in the Dodger Stadium parking lot in 2005. A jury found her assailant, Denise Ordaz, 85 percent liable for the attack, Helenius 15 percent liable and the Dodgers zero percent liable. She was awarded $500,420, according to court documents obtained by ESPNLosAngeles.com, 85 percent of which was to be paid by Ordaz.
Stow, who was in a coma for several months following the attack, remains in a Bay Area rehabilitation facility. His family has said that he is speaking again and has made great progress since the March 31 attack, but that he still needs around-the-clock care indefinitely.
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No hearings in the civil case are scheduled until January, but lawyers from Major League Baseball prominently cited the case as evidence of McCourt's mismanagement of the club in filings to a Delaware bankruptcy court earlier this week.
The Stow family is the largest of Frank McCourt's unsecured creditors. Their family lawyer, Tom Girardi, has said damages in the case could total as much as $50 million if a jury finds McCourt liable.
Girardi maintains that the Dodgers were negligent in providing adequate security on the night Stow was beaten. He said he was disgusted by McCourt's decision to countersue Norwood and Sanchez.
"Everybody makes mistakes in life. How you're judged is by the way you respond to them," Girardi told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "Here you have this family, this massive financial impact, and (McCourt's) plan is to sue the two people who were arrested because we didn't do anything about order and safety in the stadium."
Jackson said that he sympathizes with Stow and his family, but that their complaint should be with the alleged perpetrators of the attack, not McCourt.
Security for Opening Day, Jackson said, was the most extensive he'd seen in 23 years of representing the team and twice the size of the security force at Dodger Stadium during a series against the New York Yankees in June 2010, the park's most-attended series of the year.
"What happened to Bryan Stow was a tragedy," he said. "The Dodgers have held fundraisers. The Dodgers have helped police in solving this case. That doesn't mean we're legally responsible for what happens here.
"What baffles me is that the level of public outrage at the Dodgers seems to be higher than the level of outrage at the people who inflicted the blows."
Sanchez and Norwood remain in custody and are awaiting trial on the criminal charges. Both have entered not guilty pleas. Their next appearance in Los Angeles Superior Court is scheduled for Nov. 4.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.