Since a lawsuit was first filed against the Staples Center by a Garden Grove couple whose 34-month-old son fell 25 feet to his death from a luxury suite during a Lakers game–and up through the first days of the trial that started last week–arena representatives were adamant that parental neglect was to blame for the tragedy.
But then the cracks began to show …
In midtrial Tuesday, the late Lucas Tang's parents, Henry Tang and Hoia Mi Nguyen, and the Staples Center's owners/operators, L.A. Arena Co. and L.A. Arena Funding, settled the suit that alleged "negligent" design of a food and beverage shelf and a tempered glass barrier in the suite contributed to the child's death in May 2010.
The terms of the settlement were not divulged.
Up until the settlement was reached, the courthouse reporting by Bill Hetherman of City News Service exposed some troubling testimony for the Staples side.
First, Richard Fortman, a principal inspector for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety who was involved in the early project review, told the court he would have questioned the construction of the shelves had he been aware of them.
In addition to guests standing on the shelves, the possibility of people tripping over them would have concerned Fortman, he said.
On Monday, former state Fire Marshal James McMullen testified that under local and state regulations the glass guardrail should have been constructed 26 inches above the shelf rather than just 10 inches. And regardless of their intended purpose, the ledges invite people to stand on them because anyone wanting to use them to enhance their view of an event would have his or her back to the activities if they merely sat on them, McMullen said.
Perhaps most damning of all was the disclosure that the luxury suites were redesigned without the food and beverage shelves after the Tangs filed their lawsuit.
Nguyen is quoted as saying outside the courtroom that she and Tang feel "relief and closure" with the settlement as well as with steps the arena took to make the suites safer after her son's death.
Pretty magnanimous given Staples had pinned he blame on her all along.