Stop bashing the Dodgers for “blaming” Bryan Stow for his injuries

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There has been a minor uproar today since it was reported that the Dodgers, in the context of the civil suit arising out of the Bryan Stow beating, will ask the jury to assign percentages of the blame to the assailants, the Dodgers … and to Bryan Stow himself.  The tenor of the uproar:  “Oh my God, the DODGERS ARE BLAMING THE VICTIM!”

Back off the ledge, people.  This is standard. It is part of any litigation involving injuries. Your indignation at the Dodgers may feel righteous, but it is misplaced.

To be sure, it’s not entirely misplaced.  The attorney who was quoted — Jerome Jackson — put it in a way that could have been a tad more callous if he put effort into it, but not terribly more so:

“You’re saying to the jury, ‘They (the Stow family) are saying we’re 100 percent liable. But does that mean (Marvin) Norwood and (Louis) Sanchez, who beat this guy up, have no liability? And, does it mean Mr. Stow himself has no liability? … I’ve been doing these cases for 23 years and I have never seen one yet in which it didn’t take at least two people to tango.”

Not the way I would have phrased it. There’s no need to say that kind of thing in that kind of off the cuff manner.  But he’s also not wrong.

California is a comparative negligence state.  What that means is, in personal injury cases in California, the jury is required to determine responsibility and damages based on the negligence of every party directly involved in the accident.

The classic case: a car accident in which one driver is speeding, the other driver fails to signal and turns in front of the speeder (whose speed he has misjudged) and an accident happens. Both parties contributed to the accident, and the jury assigns percentages of the blame. Let’s say that the speeder was 49% responsible and the turner was 51%.

Is it fair for the one who was 49% responsible to recover 100% of the damages from the one who was 51% responsible? Because that’s how the law used to be everywhere. One is right one is wrong and it’s all or nothing. People understandably had a problem with this, so most states now allow recovery based on those percentages.

Applied to the Stow case, it’s not inconceivable that a jury — once it hears the evidence — could conclude that, in fact, Bryan Stow contributed, say, 5% to the incident. How? Well, remember that video of Stow taunting Dodgers fans?  While we may all conclude that taunting is no excuse for a beating — I certainly believe that — a jury will be tasked with making its own determination of that. And of any other evidence that we don’t currently know about. They will be asked to make that impartial judgment. They could decide that Stow was 0%. They could decide it was 5%. They could decide 25%.

But the point is, no matter how unseemly is may feel to “blame the victim” as it were, the law allows the jury to decide it. And if the jury is allowed to decide it, and there is any chance that because of it the Dodgers’ liability could be reduced, the lawyer for the Dodgers is absolutely obligated to raise it. It would be legal malpractice for him not to.

If you hate this, take up your argument with the legislature who made California a comparative negligence state. Or take your argument up with the jury if and when it decides to blame the victim.  But don’t take it out on the Dodgers. And don’t take it out on the  lawyer. The man — while not exactly the most thoughtful speaker in the world — is just doin’ his job.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).