Image of Dodger Stadium beating victim Stow is shown on scoreboard before MLB National League baseball game between San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in San Francisco, California

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.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.