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Judge postpones ruling on Stow case, urges settlement talks

March 07, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • San Francisco Giants fans Bryan Stow was severely beaten in a Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day last year.
San Francisco Giants fans Bryan Stow was severely beaten in a Dodger Stadium… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross on Wednesday urged attorneys for Bryan Stow and the Dodgers to settle their dispute without his intervention.

Stow's attorneys had asked Gross to yield to a California court. Gross postponed a decision until March 21, when he is scheduled to hear the Dodgers' request that he throw out Stow's bankruptcy claim.

However, after two hours of arguments in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., Gross strongly encouraged both sides to resume settlement discussions.

"I don't think I have ever heard more ground to resolve a lot of these issues," Gross said. "A lot of the disagreement is not really persuasive disagreement."

Stow is the San Francisco Giants fan beaten and critically injured in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day last year. His attorneys have said he will need lifelong medical care and cited $50 million as a "conservative total estimate" of his damages.

Stow's attorneys filed a civil suit against the Dodgers in Los Angeles Superior Court and a subsequent claim against the team in Bankruptcy Court.

With the civil case on hold, the Dodgers last month asked the Bankruptcy Court to throw out Stow's claim and find that the team could not be held liable because stadium security was at record levels and the attack could not have been reasonably foreseen.

In turn, Stow's attorneys objected, arguing in part the Dodgers were trying to use the Bankruptcy Court to execute an end run around the civil trial, where a jury would hear the case. In Wednesday's hearing, Stow attorney David Molton said the Dodgers might try to use a variety of federal courts to avoid or delay a jury trial.

The Dodgers last week offered to defer to the Superior Court on three conditions -- that Stow does not oppose the team's emergence from bankruptcy; that Stow waits until that emergence to proceed with the civil suit; and that Stow seeks to recover damages only from the Dodgers' insurance carriers and not from the defendants themselves. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is one of the defendants in the civil suit.

In Monday's filing, Stow's attorneys said they could work with the first two conditions but flatly rejected the third, claiming it would "severely limit Stow's right to recover punitive ... damages."

In Wednesday's hearing, Dodgers attorney Sid Levinson said, "They don't have a claim for punitive damages."

Stow has sued various McCourt entities, some of which are not involved in the bankruptcy proceedings. In Monday's filing, Stow's attorneys alleged the Dodgers are trying to leverage resolution of his bankruptcy claim "for the benefit of nondebtor parties, including and most specifically Mr. Frank McCourt."

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