On the opening day of the 2011 baseball season, a San Francisco Giants fan named Bryan Stow attended the Giants’ game against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium in L.A. After the game, as Stow tried to hail a taxi, two men accosted him for wearing Giants fan apparel and administered a brutal beating.
Violent crime is not unique to Los Angeles or Major League Baseball teams. Something like this could happen in a school, an apartment complex courtyard, or in the parking lots of a shopping mall, a convenience store, a library or a restaurant. If it is common for groups of people to gather at your business, there are a few lessons you can take from this incident.
1. The amount of liability insurance you buy matters — a lot. All businesses try to stretch their dollars, so limiting insurance costs is a natural thing to do. When a severe event like this happens on your property, however, the questions that will matter are: Will my insurance cover it? Do I have enough insurance to cover all of it? The insurance premium might seem like a minor consideration.
2. One of the most important features of liability insurance is that it covers the cost of providing a legal defense. In smaller towns, good lawyers cost a few hundred dollars an hour; in a large city like L.A., the cost is many times that. Many insurance policies provide an unlimited amount of coverage for defense costs in addition to the amount of coverage for the settlement or judgment. Check your policy or ask our agents if you’re not sure how your policy handles this.
3. Your business might have an exposure to this kind of incident even if your relationship with the location is incidental or indirect. The Stow family’s lawsuit names 19 parties and has placeholders for dozens more. Each of these parties will require legal defense and a source of funds for potential payments. Some of the parties operate parts of Dodgers Stadium, while others are part owners. The team’s principal owner is named individually and in his role as owner. In the case of a severe injury like this, the plaintiffs will look to sue anyone with any slight relationship to the incident.
4. Security, including video surveillance, is vital. Monitored security cameras can catch an incident before it begins or before it escalates to the extremes that this one did. Also, the mere visible presence of security cameras can deter some individuals from starting trouble.
5. Incidents like this can and will hurt your business. Attendance at Dodgers games was down 200,000 through the first two and a half months of the 2011 season. The median ticket price is $27, with many seats selling for much higher amounts, so it’s safe to say that the attack is at least partly responsible for more than $5 million in lost revenue. Due to the principal owner’s personal problems, the Dodgers were already in financial trouble, so this comes at a particularly bad time.
This horrible attack is, fortunately, quite rare, but violent crime is still a very real possibility. Every business owner should consider how something like this would affect the business, take precautions to prevent such incidents or make them less severe, and work with one of our insurance agents to make sure it has appropriate financial protection.