Parents of a Toddler Who Fell to His Death at Staples Center Are Allowed to Seek Punitive Damages
Last Friday, a judge ruled that the parents of a two year old boy who fell to who his death at Staples Center can seek punitive damages in their wrongful death lawsuit against L.A. Arena Co. and L.A. Arena Funding. On November 21, 2010, two year old Lucas Tang and his parents sat in a luxury box at a Lakers game against the Golden State Warriors. About an hour and a half later, young Lucas was placed on a beverage bar which is an 11 inch wide shelf that sits below a small wall and a 10 inch glass barrier. Hoia Mi Nguyen, the mother of the two year old, placed the toddler on the beverage bar so that she could “take a picture and capture the moment for his first Lakers game.”
After taking four pictures, two year old Lucas fell over the barrier in the luxury box. Nguyen states, “I was holding my camera and I took the last picture of him and I glanced down at the fourth picture. When I glanced back up to take the next one, I noticed he wasn’t there.” Two year old Lucas fell more than 25 feet from the third row of the luxury box and suffered head injuries. Later that evening, Lucas died in the hospital.
Lucas’ parents, Hoia Mi Nguyen and Henry Tang, originally brought suit against Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. (AEG), but was later replaced with its subsidiary, L.A. Arena Co., who own and manage the Staples Center. In plaintiffs’ original complaint they alleged that the design of the luxury box “sacrifices the safety of users and places them in a position of risk of bodily harm or death.” The case was brought before Judge Susan Bryant- Deason who granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the Staples Center had no obligation to properly supervise Lucas to prevent him from falling. In Judge Bryant-Deason’s opinion, it was not reasonably expected that Lucas’ parent would place him “in an openly and obviously dangerous situation by putting him on top of the beverage bar where . . . he could climb over the tempered glass and fall.”
After finding that Judge Bryant-Deason abused her discretion, the case was sent back to Los Angeles Superior Court where Judge Mitchell Beckloff is presiding. Judge Mitchell decided that Lucas’ parents could move forward with their claims for unlawful business practices against L.A. Arena Co. and L.A. Arena Funding and could sue for punitive damages. Judge Beckloff scheduled trial of the lawsuit for July 28th.
If you or someone you know has been injured due to unsafe premises, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.