A funny thing happened on the way to Tom Girardi’s
“My coach called me ‘great glove, no hit’,’’ says Girardi, who caught the next plane out to a different field of dreams. His career as a lawyer has been that of an All-Star, with hits too numerous to count: the first million-dollar medical malpractice verdict in
Still, he’s been in love with baseball his whole life, regularly attending
His feelings about the Dodgers began to change over the past few years, however, as he watched the storied franchise begin to erode under the ownership of the McCourts. He noticed the Dodgers’ beloved organist, Nancy Bea Hefley, become largely silenced, and even
The team did not invest in top talent when it became available, yet charged fans ever higher prices to attend. A certain hooligan element began to pervade the stadium.
Then, about two years ago, a young man was attacked at the stadium and suffered a fractured neck. Girardi represented the fan in his claim against the Dodgers. That suit came before the McCourt divorce made public their structuring of the team's operations into a series of corporations intended not only to insulate the McCourts from liability, but also allowing them to take extraordinary amounts of cash out of the team, by some estimates $14 million a year.
Girardi was not at opening day this year, but read with dismay the accounts of the attack on Giants fan Bryan Stow. The 42-year old paramedic from
At 7:03 p.m., Stow texted his family that he was scared. The Dodgers won the contest, 2-1, and Stow left, heading for the taxi stand in Lot 2, where they arrived at about 8 p.m. Two assailants attacked Stow in the ill-lit lot with no security to intervene. He was beaten in the head, fell to the ground and then was kicked in the head. It took security more than 10 minutes to respond. Stow has been unconscious ever since.
When friends in law enforcement connected the Stow family with Girardi, he decided to do his best
"It's fairly simple," Girardi explained. "The Dodgers have shown a total disregard for public safety. They've gotten rid of security people, they've had all these incidents at their games, more than other teams, there's also a known gang presence. What did they think was going to happen?"
The suit names 14 defendants, all of which are essentially McCourt holding companies, allowing the embattled owner to transfer money among the various entities and pay himself among the highest rents in baseball, helping to support a lavish lifestyle that included eight homes, including one that was allegedly just for doing the laundry.
To make ends meet, the lawsuit claims, the Dodgers cut the security force and increased promotions like half-off beer night.
"It's just incredible that anyone could allow this to happen," says Girardi. "Once you know you have a real security problem and then you decide to do nothing about it, you are liable under the law. Especially when you cut security by up to two-thirds, fire the security director, and sauce everybody up with beer."
The suit itself is drawing praise from legal experts for the parallels it draws to corporations that choose profits over safety, and tying those profits to an executive living a life of excess. Filed by Girardi and Christopher Aumais, Stow and his children, Tyler and Tabitha, have sued through his conservators and the children's guardian ad litem.
“It is unforunate that such a storied and well-respected baseball club such as the Los Angeles Dodgers has been made to suffer due to the cutbacks and mismanagement by its owner
The suit also makes clear that McCourt has been on notice about the consequences of these cutbacks with similar incidents occurring at Dodger Stadium since 2004, including a death.
"This is one of the worst things I've ever seen," says Girardi. "Ballparks are where you go to be with your family, they're a place for children. Not a bank for an owner who cares nothing about his fans or team."