Bryan Stow’s lawyers estimate his damages to be $50 million

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You always have to take a damage claim in a lawsuit with a grain of salt. Either they’re small because the plaintiff is simply alleging enough to meet a jurisdictional threshold for the particular court they’re in — claiming, say, “no less than $15,000” to make it clear the suit doesn’t belong in small claims court — or else it’s comically large for the purposes of getting attention (“Plaintiff demands $7 billion for emotional distress following the willful and wanton destruction of his couch cushion fort by defendant”). The point is that the complaint in a lawsuit does not tie the plaintiff to a certain amount of damages.

But as the case progresses, the damages do have to be established with specificity. And proven, once the case has been reduced to judgment in favor of the plaintiff.  To that end, there will be discovery, filings and other bits of info that reveal the damages case the plaintiffs plan to put on when the time comes.

That process is beginning in the Bryan Stow case against the Los Angeles Dodgers arising out of his near-fatal beating on Opening Day.  The damage claim at the moment: $50 million.

That’s a lot of money. But Bryan Stow is in a really bad way. He’s had months of around-the-clock medical care in ICU or near-ICU conditions. He faces many more months if not years — and if not that, the rest of his life — in a similar situation. He’ll likely never work again. And that’s before you put a price on his pain, his suffering and that of his family.  I could totally see a $50 million claim that isn’t off-the-charts crazy, even if such an amount is unlikely to be ultimately awarded (and even then, only if it’s found that the Dodgers are responsible).

Which — and pardon me if this comes off as insensitive — is a reminder of a nasty little truth they teach you back in law school.  The lesson: in purely monetary terms, a defendant is better off if his negligence actually kills someone — preferably instantly — than if it merely severely maims them and/or kills them after some long period of time. Or, as my very colorful torts professor put it “if you run someone over in your car, look in the rear view mirror: if they’re moving around, back up and finish them off. Your insurance company will thank you.”

Yes, he was kidding, but the point was still illustrative: pain, suffering and a life cast into ruin is, at least in legal terms, far more costly than a life swiftly taken.  There are practical reasons for this (e.g. the pain is compensible and a person who dies fast doesn’t have much of it) and reasons which involve legal tactics (e.g. a jury is often more moved by a video of a person in a hospital bed than they are by an out-of-sight, out-of-mind dead person).  And while it may reveal a weird aspect of human psychology, the fact is that jurors are also more deeply affected by weeping caregiving wives of living persons who are incapacitated than they are by weeping widows.

Early this morning I mentioned my dark humor and bluntness when it comes to matters of tragedy.  You can thank law school for a whole hell of a lot of that.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.