Media Apparently Misstate Extent of Dodgers Liability in Brian Stow Case

Just now a jury awarded $18 million to Brian Stow for the 2011 beating Stow took at Dodger Stadium.  According to press reports, the jury found the Dodgers 25% responsible, and each of the two attackers 37.5 percent responsible.  AP says: “The jury found damages of about $18 million but said the Dodgers were responsible for only a quarter of the sum. The rest of the responsibility was split between the two men who beat fan Bryan Stow.” CBS says: “The verdict means the Dodgers business entity must pay about $4.5 million.” ABC says: “Jurors awarded Stow about $18 million in damages, which means the Dodgers must pay about $4.5 million.”

They are all wrong.

Under California law, to the extent that the $18 million represents compensation for “economic” damages (that is, past and expected future medical expenses, lost wages, etc.), principles of “joint and several liability” apply. That means, assuming the two other defendants have no assets, the Dodgers are on the hook for the entire amount of the damages.

California voters passed an initiative providing that for non-economic damages (that is, pain and suffering, and emotional distress), damages are “several” only, meaning the Dodgers only pay 25% of this subset of damages.

I do not yet know how much the jury allocated for economic vs. noneconomic damages. Surely Stow has much of both.  But how that is allocated determines just how much the Dodgers are on the hook for.

UPDATE; Apparently there is a bankruptcy order involving the Dodgers further complicating this.  Stay tuned.

UPDATEII: The AP story now says: “Plaintiff’s attorney Tom Girardi said the verdict means the Dodgers must pay about $14 million in economic losses and a quarter of the pain and suffering sum, adding about $1 million more.”

UPDATE III: Here is a bankruptcy consent order in which the Stow family agrees to go after money only from 17 Dodgers insurance policies.  The policies were filed under seal, so it is not clear if it can cover all of the damages. There also may be other filings in the bankruptcy case which affect the right to recover.  Thanks to ELB reader David Bury for passing this along.

FINAL UPDATE and DISCLOSURE:  I’ve just learned that the law firm of Horvitz and Levy had been representing the Dodgers in an aspect of this case. I sometimes consult with Horvitz and Levy but have nothing to do with this case and didn’t know of the firm’s involvement when I wrote this blog post.

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