LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A jury began deliberations on Thursday in a lawsuit seeking $37 million in damages from the Los Angeles Dodgers and their former owner for a baseball fan rendered permanently disabled from a brutal assault he blames on lax security at Dodger Stadium.
Capping 20 days of testimony in a Los Angeles Superior Court trial that began in late May, lawyers for both sides presented closing arguments before the judge handed the case over to a panel of six men and six women to decide.
Bryan Stow, 45, a father of two and former paramedic from northern California, says the Dodgers are liable for violence in the stadium parking lot that left him brain-damaged and unable to earn a living.
Stow's negligence suit also names then-owner of the team Frank McCourt as a defendant, accusing him of skimping on security that Stow says would have prevented him from being assaulted after the season-opening game between the Dodgers and their longtime rivals, the San Francisco Giants.
The lawsuit claims that dim lighting and a meager presence of uniformed police created an atmosphere where criminals felt emboldened to prey on others.
"Had they done their job, this never would have happened," Thomas Girardi, Stow's lawyer, told jurors in his summation.
But defense attorney Dana Fox countered that blame lies instead with the two men, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the attack and were sentenced to prison terms of eight and four years, respectively.
"The responsibility for what happened to Mr. Stow, and the condition he's in, rests with them," he said. "We cannot prevent a fight that starts and ends in 10 seconds."
Fox went on to suggest that Stow himself may have some measure of responsibility, noting that he was found to have had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18, well above the legal limit allowed for driving a car.
"I have no problem going to a ball game and having a beer or two. That's fine," Fox said. "But don't get yourself this drunk and then say you have no responsibility for what happened."
Stow himself was not in court for closing arguments but attended on Wednesday for the last day of testimony.
Girardi said Stow is seeking $37.2 million for past and future medical care, lost earnings and the college education of his two children.
Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Sandra Maler