gavelJust how responsible are team owners when it comes to fan safety? Well that is exactly what a current lawsuit seeks to determine. Former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Frank McCourt, is possibly facing a lawsuit referencing an incident that occurred back on March 31, 2011 when a San Francisco Giants fan, Bryan Stow, got overly dressed up in Giant’s colors and attended opening day at Dodger stadium.

Following several hours of drinking and baseball, Stow and his fellow game-goers found themselves engaged in a verbal dispute that turned physical while in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Allegedly Louie Sanchez, a Dodger fan, punched Stow which resulted in him hitting the pavement with his head shortly thereafter.

Failure to Keep Fans Safe

Fast forward to present day, over two years following the incident, and Bryan Stow has trouble speaking coherently and is unable to walk more than a few steps at a time according to Stow’s attorney Thomas Girardi. Because of his injuries, Stow filed a lawsuit in May 2011 in the State Superior Court against not only the Dodgers, but also several subsidiaries owned by Frank McCourt. His accusations surround the theory of negligence and their failure to keep fans safe within the stadium and in surrounding areas.

“You have to take reasonable steps,” said Mr. Girardi, who contends that the Dodgers did not provide sufficient security detail on the day in question. “This wasn’t the first incident that night. Those guys were fighting with people for 35 minutes,” he said of the three men involved in the incident with his client.

Though the Los Angeles police arrested the men and charged them with assault, this doesn’t resolve Stow’s problem, which necessitates continuous care as a result of the beating.

Following this incident, several MLB executives began questioning the Dodgers franchise, specifically McCourt’s running of such. Stow’s lawsuit, set to go to trial as early as this summer, has conflicting assessments of how the Dodgers handle security detail to surface.

VP of Security Says Security Was not Deficient

Though the executives criticize McCourt and the Dodgers’ security issues, the MLB’s VP of security, Earnell Lucas, has released a contrary statement.

“The number of officers and security personnel that the Dodgers had for an Opening Day compliment [sic] might only be surpassed by the Yankees,” Mr. Lucas said. “There were no deficiencies.”

According to a motion dismiss the case filed by McCourt, there were 195 uniformed on-duty police officers; 19 uniformed, off-duty police officers; “59 off-duty law-enforcement officers retained by the Dodgers in white polo shirts”; 124 private security guards; 21 security managers; five Los Angeles public-safety officers; two members of the California Highway Patrol and 17 employees from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on opening day. For every 124 fans there was one officer and over 100 security workers and police officers were assigned duties within the parking lots before and after the game.

I am certain this isn’t the first lawsuit of its kind, but the resolution of it will be telling with respect to how sports venues handle their security detail in the future. I am fairly certain that every sporting event I have attended since I was a child came complete with a regular amount of heckling and at least one disagreement that came to fisticuffs…perhaps this won’t be the case if sports franchises are forced to beef up their forces in order to control the masses.