San Francisco Baseball Fan Suffers Serious Brain Injury: Where was security?

securitySan Francisco Giant’s fan, Bryan Stow, attended opening day at Dodger Stadium on March 31 2010. As he was leaving the game, he was brutally assaulted in the parking lot. He suffered a fractured skull and serious brain injuries after he was repeatedly punched and kicked in the head by assailants who fled the scene. Witnesses reported that the assailants yelled slurs against the Giants as they pummeled the man. Following the attack, Bryan was hospitalized at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center where he has been in a coma since the attack.

It seems to me that sporting events are increasingly becoming the site of attacks like this. Whether it’s a Dodger-Giant game in San Francisco or a Raider-49er game in Oakland, fan violence appears to be on the rise. What used to be good natured ribbing between rivals fans at sporting events, now often turns violent. The question is, what is being done to prevent attacks like that on Bryan Stow and others?

The law is clear in California. Any business owner has a legal duty to keep his or her premises safe for its patrons. This includes a duty to protect customers from criminal attacks if such attacks are reasonably foreseeable. Business owners must take actions commensurate with the known frequency of criminal activity (See Delgado v Trax Bar & Grill). If there has been a significant amount of criminal assaults and/or other criminal activity, then the business must take reasonable steps to prevent such attacks. Therefore, the Dodgers and all other sports franchises and the operators of the facilities where the games take place must take reasonable measures to identify criminal activity and reasonably respond to such activity before someone is seriously injured, like Bryan Stow. When they do not take reasonable safety measures, they can be held legally responsible for the personal injuries sustained by their patrons.

This same legal principle applies to all business owners, not just sports teams. Recently, a jury held Nordstrom’s liable for personal injuries suffered in a criminal attack which occurred in one of their stores in Bethsada, Md. In 2008, a woman entered the store armed with knives and began chasing shoppers. Two shoppers were stabbed multiple times and sued for their personal injuries. They argued at trial that eight minutes passed from the time the attacker entered the store to when they were injured and that during this time, Nordstrom employees made no effort to warn shoppers or evacuate the store. Due to the failure to warn the customers of the attacker in the store, the jury awarded $1.6 million dollars to the two victims.

As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I have represented individuals who have been seriously injured in criminal attacks at various business, including bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, gas stations and other businesses. Each case is unique. Success in litigating these type cases depend heavily on a thorough investigation of not only what happened in the particular case, but also into what the business owner knew about before the attack ever took place. In cases where there was considerable criminal activity and the business owner failed to take reasonable steps to protect his customers from these dangers, the owners were held responsible for these injuries.

Resources:

CBS, Beaten Giants Fan Emerging From Coma, April 14, 2010
Washington Post, Jury orders Nordstrom to pay $1.6 million to Bethesda stabbing victims, April 18, 2011

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