At the literal beginning of the 2023 season at Dodger Stadium, there was an incident involving Mr. Ricardo Juarez of Riverside, California. As you may or may not recall, he went onto the field of play to propose to his fiancée during the game.
It did not go well, as a member of Dodger Stadium Security leveled Mr. Juarez who was stationary and kneeling at the time. This current essay is ultimately not about Mr. Juarez or Ms. Guietterz, his fiancée.
At the time of the Juarez incident, I wrote an article, which had the following relevant passage:
Regardless, there is a space for genuine discussion if you feel the Dodger Stadium security guard overreacted in restraining and tackling Mr. Juarez, which is a very fair discussion as Dodger Stadium security has been sued in at least five different lawsuits for alleged use of excessive force and alleged act of false arrests since July 2022. On April 3, the Los Angeles Times reported that Mr. Juarez ultimately had to be taken to the hospital as a result of Dodger Stadium security tackling him. Per the Times, Ms. Gutierrez said that doctors told Mr. Juarez that he had no broken bones but cleared him to skip work for four days and gave him an injection for inflammation.
This incident begged a question, which I spent the rest of the season asking and investigating. Not counting fan-on-fan incidents or fan vs. security because the fan went onto-the-field incidents, how often was the conduct of Dodger Stadium security leading fans to sue for excessive force?
The answer shocked me as I found incident after incident of alleged excessive force directed at fans by Dodger Stadium security resulting in numerous instances of litigation in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
That answer led to a further, darker question. Was this fan litigation against security a leaguewide problem or a Dodger Stadium-only problem?
The answer was shocking, but obvious in hindsight.
There’s something rotten primarily at Dodger Stadium.
At the risk of borrowing a penalty from another sport, there is only one way to describe the situation.
Even anecdotally, in my literal 67 Dodger regular season games the past three seasons in 22 different cities, the stadium with the most aggressive security, by far, was Dodger Stadium. My original essay from the beginning of the 2023 season drastically undercounted the number of lawsuits filed against the Dodgers for their security practices.
Granted, this essay serves as an introduction to this matter rather than a particular case study. In the past few years, there was reporting stating that approximately 15 different lawsuits have been filed against the Dodgers for security-related matters. This number turned out to undercount the total number of pending lawsuits.
Even with a basic internet search, searches about lawsuits at most other venues yielded zero results. However, there was an odd occurrence out at Citi Field where a man accused of disorderly conduct claimed that Mets security stripped him naked in 2023.
Otherwise, just Googling “Dodger Stadium security lawsuit” brings page after page of results, some of which are different essays and articles about the same incident, and a series of themes of alleged poor training, poor supervision over off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officers, and alleged excessive force run through each described alleged incident.
For example, let us briefly examine the recently concluded trial of Francisco Rodriguez.
In his case, Mr. Rodriguez alleged that on Opening Day 2018, Dodger Stadium security beat him up while ejecting him from Dodger Stadium.
This case went to trial and the jury found in favor of Mr. Rodriguez, delivering its final verdict on November 17. Fair warning, the video from the security shared by KABC-7 is rather disturbing and viewer discretion is advised.
On November 17, the jury awarded $6,870 in medical expenses and $25,000 in future noneconomic loss, including physical/pain and mental suffering, to Mr. Rodriguez. The jury also found that Rodriguez was 75 percent responsible for his injuries with the Dodgers being 25 percent responsible for his injuries.
As such, under the doctrine of comparative negligence, this award of $31,780 should (and likely will) be reduced by 75 percent to $7,945.
The jury also found that punitive damages were to be levied against the Dodgers and Erik Pena (the punching security guard in the above footage), an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department sergeant who was moonlighting as security and who unsuccessfully tried to get the lawsuit filed against him dismissed, in the respective amount of $100,000 and $5,000.
Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for grossly negligent or intentional conduct and are often not available in negligence cases in California.
The court ordered that Mr. Rodriguez needs to file the proposed judgment with the court and serve it on the Dodgers and Mr. Pena on or before December 15, 2023.
While the Dodgers have filed a motion to overturn the verdict, which is to be heard on January 22, 2024, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, as of now, the Rodriguez verdict is the first time since the Bryan Stow verdict that the Dodgers have been held to account for security lapses at Dodger Stadium.
The press release from diDonato Law, Mr. Rodriguez’s law firm, states that there are currently at least seventeen active lawsuits against the Dodgers working their respective ways through Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The Rodriguez story, and ones like it, are developing stories that will merit coverage in the coming months and updates shall be provided accordingly.