A Superior Court judge has tossed out a wrongful-death suit filed by a family whose 2-year-old boy plunged from a luxury box at Staples Center, saying that the arena operator was not responsible for the toddler's death.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in May 2011, named Staples Center owner AEG and the operator of the arena, L.A. Arena Co., as defendants in connection with the death of Lucas Tang, who fell from the box in November 2010 after a Lakers game. The family had alleged that a poorly designed barrier led to Tang's death.
But in her ruling Friday, Judge Susan Bryant-Deason put the onus of supervision on Tang's parents, Henry Tang and Homaimi Nguyen, rather than the arena.
"The court finds that it was not foreseeable that Mr. Tang and Ms. Nguyen would place Lucas in an open and obviously dangerous situation by putting him on the beverage bar where it was easily foreseeable that he could climb over the tempered glass and fall," the judge wrote in her ruling.
Resting on previous court decisions, she added that even if the arena did have the duty to supervise the child, there was no evidence that the arena's actions caused the fall.
Moments before the boy plunged, the Tang family was taking pictures in front of the tempered safety glass barrier. But as the family was reviewing pictures on a digital camera, Lucas made his way over the barrier and fell nearly 30 feet.
He died the next morning at a hospital.
In court documents, lawyers for the family had alleged that the barrier in front of the boxes was only about 2 feet high and that the "design and maintenance of the luxury box constituted an unreasonable and dangerous condition."
"We are disappointed but not surprised by Judge Bryant-Deason's decision, as she consistently ruled against the Tang family on issues large and small since the outset of the case," attorneys for the Tang family said in a statement. "We are confident that the Court of Appeal will have a very different perspective on the case and that the Tang family ultimately will prevail. In the meantime, we hope that the dangerous, unremediated conditions at the Staples Center will not result in another tragedy."
Michael Roth, vice president of communications for AEG, provided a statement from company lawyers that said they "remain deeply saddened" by the death of Lucas.
"As the court's ruling makes clear, Staples Center did not cause this accident," the statement said. "The court found that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that anything Staples Center did or did not do caused Lucas' fall. The court's ruling in favor of Staples Center, which was made after careful review of all evidence, is well-reasoned and supported by all facts presented by the parties as well as applicable law."
Roth said the incident was the only fatality of its kind at the arena, which opened in 1999.