Jury selection began in Los Angeles Tuesday for the trial of a lawsuit over the beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium after the March 2011 opening day game between the rival teams.
Stow watched from a wheelchair Tuesday as prospective jurors were instructed to fill out questionnaires. The paramedic from Santa Cruz, California, suffered disabling brain damage in the beating, for which two men pleaded guilty to criminal charges earlier this year.
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Stow was joined by his caregiver, relatives and children and stayed for the court session.
"This is a major damage case, and I wanted the jury just to have a glimpse of him. That's all. He's not going to sit through this trial," Stow's attorney Tom Girardi said. "On the other hand, to see this young vibrant person who lived his life helping people as a paramedic, now all of the sudden he can't get out of the wheelchair by himself."
"So this wasn't a big sympathy play or anything like that, but the jury has to understand what this whole case is all about," Girardi said.
In a separate criminal proceeding, two Rialto men, Louis Sanchez and Brian Norwood, have already pleaded guilty to charages stemming from the attack.
The civil liability and negligence suit seeks millions of dollars in damages from the then ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers under Frank McCourt.
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Lawyers have estimated that medical expenses and lifetime care for Stow, a father of two, could cost tens of millions of dollars.
Attorneys for both sides spoke to the pool of 100 prospective jurors before they were handed the six-page questionnaire to fill out in the courtroom. Issues ranged from personal experiences at Dodger Stadium to familiarity with traumatic brain injury.
The suit contends that the Dodgers were negligent in not providing adequadate security measures.
McCourt attorney Dana Fox told prospective jurors the Stadium had an unprecedented level of security for opening day, and contended responsibility lies with the two convicted perpetrators and, in part, with Stow himself.
Evidence to be presented will show that at the hospital, Stow's blood alcohol was measured at 0.149, and would have been between 0.16 and 0.20 at the time of the altercation, two to two and a half times the legal limit for driving, Fox told the prospective jurors. He also said that five minutes after an initial confrontation in the parking lot, as Stow and his friends were walking away from Sanchez and Norwood, Stow turned and raised his arms, and Sanchez came after him.
Girardi contends Sanchez should have been removed from the stadium long before the end of the game.
"This guy was being a jerk from the second inning, threatening people, yelling massive obscenities, throwing stuff at people, food etc., because they had Giants uniforms on," Girardi said.
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Being able to point to Sanchez and Norwood is favorable for the defense, but trying to persuade jurors to attribute fault to Stow will be risky, in the view of attorney Louis Shapiro, who is not involved in the case, but was asked by NBC4 for his analysis.
"It's going to be a very difficult hurdle for the jury because there is so much emotion involved in a man that has about $50 million worth of medical damages," legal analyst Louis Shapiro said.
Both Sanchez and Norwood pleaded guilty in February and accepted plea deals in the Dodger Stadium attack.
Sanchez, 31, pleaded guilty to a felony count of mayhem and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Norwood, 32, pleaded guilty to assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and was sentenced to four years behind bars.
As part of the plea agreement, all other charges against the men were dropped. Both men had originally been charged with mayhem, assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.