Earlier this month a Los Angeles jury awarded injured baseball fan Bryan Stow $13.9 million in a civil suit brought on his behalf. Significant in determining the appropriate damages was the jury’s assessment of Mr. Stow’s life expectancy, a decision that was aided by use of medical expert witnesses who diagnosed Bryan’s condition and projected how long he could survive with the injuries suffered.
Bryan Stow’s Civil Lawsuit against the LA Dodgers
Bryan Stow’s story gained national attention after he was seriously injured during a fight outside of Dodgers Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, on MLB’s Opening Day, 2011. Stow, a fan of Dodgers’ rival San Francisco Giants, was viciously beaten by two men in the parking lot of Dodgers Stadium after engaging in a verbal altercation following the game. Stow was left with permanent brain damage preventing him from ever working again and ensuring that he will require round-the-clock medical care for the rest of his life.
Bryan’s attorneys filed a lawsuit against his assailants and the Los Angeles Dodgers seeking over $65 million to compensate him for injuries suffered, wages lost, and the cost of lifetime care. In addition to pursuing the two men who beat him, Stow alleged the Dodgers organization failed in its duty to provide adequate parking lot security which, his attorneys argued, would have prevented the grisly attack that left Stow permanently disabled. The Dodgers argued that Stow, whose blood alcohol level was .18 percent, played a significant role in instigating the fight – which reduced the team’s liability.
In mid-July, a jury returned a verdict of $13.9 million, with the Dodgers responsible for only 25% of that total. In addition to testimony regarding Stow’s blood alcohol level and eyewitness accounts of the incident, jurors were influenced by expert witness testimony which projected how long Bryan would live – an important determination given that the damage award was heavily influenced by the anticipated costs of his lifetime medical care.
Expert Witnesses Debate Bryan Stow’s Life Expectancy
Featured during the trial were medical expert witnesses debating Bryan Stow’s life expectancy given his condition. Attorneys representing Bryan Stow retained medical expert witnesses to testify that the 45-year-old did not suffer a severe drop in his life expectancy as a result of his permanent brain damage. Four physicians testified that they had analyzed Stow’s injuries and taken his previous lifestyle into account to determine that Bryan’s life expectancy had only dropped 2 – 5 years as a result of his condition. After Stow’s attorneys presented expert witnesses arguing he would not experience a significant decrease in life expectancy, defense attorneys presented an expert countering the assessment.
Robert Shavelle, the technical director of the Life Expectancy Project, was called as a defense expert witness to challenge Stow’s medical experts’ conclusion that his life expectancy was not significantly reduced. Shavelle testified that Stow’s life expectancy would drop by at least 10 years, and concluded that he expected Bryan to only live 23 more years – countering the 28 – 30 more years that Stow’s experts predicted. Mr. Shavelle based his calculation on scientific studies and reports about the effect traumatic brain injuries have on life expectancy, and on medical records of the complications Stow has suffered since the 2011 attack.
Stow’s attorneys challenged Mr. Shavelle for not taking Bryan’s physical health prior to the injury into account, but the defense expert witness stood firm that he expected Bryan’s life to be 10 years shorter due to his injuries.
LA Jury Reduces Bryan Stow’s Damages Award
After several days of deliberations, jurors in the Bryan Stow civil suit determined that he was due some damages, but significantly reduced the amount he sought. Although $13.9 million is not a small figure, jurors clearly felt that Stow’s claims for $65 million overvalued the damages he suffered and the projected costs of his lifetime care. While there were likely a number of factors in the jury’s decision to limit Stow’s available damages, expert witness testimony that his life would be drastically shortened as a result of the injuries likely played a part in the outcome.