Jury selection begins in Bryan Stow’s civil case against the Dodgers


Bryan Stow was nearly beaten to death in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on Opening Day 2011. His criminal assailants are now in jail, but the matter is not totally closed. Stow has a civil case pending against the Dodgers which accuses the team and former owner Frank McCourt of not providing sufficient security that day. Jury selection began in that case yesterday. Stow was there for it, but he has suffered brain damage and will not testify.

The jury questionnaire asks potential jurors about their experience with or knowledge of traumatic brain injury and caring for people who are disabled for life, as Stow is. It asks about fistfights at a sporting events and their experience with stadium or arena security. It also asks something else:

”What is your opinion if any of Frank McCourt?” they were asked, referring to the unpopular Dodgers owner who sold the team under duress. They were asked how many times they have been to Dodgers or Giants games and whether they ever had a negative experience at Dodger Stadium.

Given that he’s a defendant who had all kinds of bad press in the couple of years before and after Stow’s beating, it’s probably pretty relevant.

Ultimately the case will be about whether there was sufficient security that day. The Dodgers and McCourt have long said that they had their biggest security detail ever for that game. Maybe so, but that is beside the point if, in the opinion of the jurors, that was still not reasonable.

Stow will need medical care, assistance and rehabilitation for life. It could cost him and/or his insurers upwards of $50 million.

New tax law could affect MLB trades

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Jim Tankersley of the New York Times notes that a tax law passed by Republicans could affect trades in Major League Baseball. The law added the word “real” to a certain line of tax code that now only allows real estate trades to qualify for tax immunity. Previously, certain assets like trucks and machinery could have been traded tax-free.

A perhaps unintended consequence of that change could mean baseball teams could have to pay capital gains taxes when they trade away and acquire players. MLB’s chief legal officer Dan Halem said, “There is no fair market value of a baseball player. There isn’t. I don’t really know what our clubs are going to do to address the issue. We haven’t fully figured it out yet. This is a change we hope was inadvertent, and we’re going to lobby hard to get it corrected.”

Tankersley wonders how players would be valued for the purposes of this tax law:

Mr. Verlander, for example, was clearly a more immediately valuable asset to the Astros than the three prospects they traded to get him. He gave up only four runs in his five regular-season starts for the team, then won four straight starts to begin the playoffs. In very simple terms, he brought value to the Astros in a trade, and had the new law been in place last year, the team would have owed taxes on that added value.

But what, exactly, was that value? Was it the size of his contract? Mr. Verlander earned $28 million last year, while the players traded for him drew minor-league salaries. Was it the additional wins he brought to the team? Statisticians estimate Mr. Verlander gave the Astros nearly two more wins last season, a value that, depending on the statistician, could reach $20 million. Or was it some calculation of the total future value Mr. Verlander will bring to the team, minus the total future value it gave up in the prospects it traded away — and possibly adjusted for the amount the team will have to pay Mr. Verlander?

Complicating matters further is that teams value players differently, and one player might help a certain team far more than another team. A struggling club with a surplus of starting pitchers might trade one to a playoff contender in desperate need of one, in exchange for position players who could improve a struggling lineup. In that case, both teams could, reasonably, be considered to have gained value in the trade, and thus would owe taxes on it.

Republicans said they weren’t trying to hamstring sports teams, but that’s exactly what they might have done here. It seems likely that the law will eventually be amended to exempt sports teams, given that leagues like the MLB and NBA are enormous and worth so much money. Whether that will be done in a reasonable amount of time is another question entirely.