In May of this past year your lawyers in Charleston at Howell Law posted several entries (found at the end of this post) covering a baseball fan that was nearly beaten to death after an attack by supporters of the opposing team. Now, a highly interesting legal twist has been added to the incident as the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks to sell the team and exit bankruptcy by April 30, 2012.
To recap, a San Francisco Giants fan visiting Los Angeles for the opening day matchup with the Dodgers was attacked by hometown supporters after a narrow 2-1 Dodgers win. The beat down left the Giants’ fan with a fractured skull and physicians were forced to put the man into a medically induced coma to prevent seizures. The man was hospitalized until October 2011, and then moved to a rehabilitation facility to continue his recovery. However, sadly, recovery for the fan can only be used in a very limited sense. He is wheelchair-bound and will require around the clock skilled nursing care for the rest of his life.
Also, and as a bit of good news, since the last post by your Charleston personal injury lawyers two men were arrested and charged with assault and mayhem for their alleged role in the attack. One of the men has been cited in the fan’s lawsuit as having been involved in two other ballpark incidents that same day. Under California law, the charge of mayhem is a very serious allegation; involving serious injury to another person. Both men have pleaded not guilty, but, if found guilty, the men could serve eight to nine year terms in prison.
In May 2011 the man’s family filed suit against the Dodgers Organization and its owner in California State Court, then filed the claim with the federal court in July, weeks after the owner put the team in bankruptcy.
The suit claims that the Dodgers were negligent in not providing enough security and adequate lighting in the parking lot where the alleged unprovoked beating took place. The suit points to security cutbacks since the 2004 purchase of the team by its current owner as being, in part, to blame for the vicious attack and resulting brain injuries. Furthermore, it claims that the organization knew a decrease in security personnel and uniformed officers would lead to an increase in criminal activity on the Dodger Field property.
The Dodgers contend that they had no way to anticipate the attack and that the fan’s claim is “based on the faulty premise that a landowner is an insurer of the safety of persons on its property.” The Dodgers noted that security personnel has been on the rise for home openers since 2009, and has greatly exceeded all requirements of California state law. Additionally, the Dodgers argue that the fan cannot prove a causal link between the security personnel staffing on opening day 2011 and his brain injuries.
Fast forward to this past week. Under a proposed bankruptcy-exit plan for the Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC, the team’s owner and officials would be released from legal liability for any actions they took in their official capacity as team representatives that may have contributed to the San Fran fan’s injuries. However, a trial must be held to determine whether the team’s officials and its owner can be held liable for their personal actions, according to the presiding U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge. The Dodgers have asked the judge to determine that the San Fran fan does not have any claims against the team or its officials, while the fan has asked to delay a hearing on that motion and allow the case in Los Angeles Superior Court to go forward; claiming the Dodgers were using Bankruptcy Court as a “shield.” The presiding U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge is expected to hold a hearing on this matter a week from today.