By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Dodgers and the family of a baseball fan who was badly beaten at a game last year were encouraged by a bankruptcy judge to discuss a settlement of a negligence lawsuit.
The family of Bryan Stow wanted U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross in Delaware to let them move ahead with a case claiming negligence against the team and its owner in a California court. But the judge refused the request for now.
"Hopefully you will continue to talk and get a little bit closer," he told lawyers for both sides at a court hearing on Wednesday.
Stow was beaten outside Dodger Stadium after the team's opening day game last year. He has the cognitive ability of a child and may never walk again as a result of the attack, his attorney, David Molton of Brown Rudnick LLP, told the court on Wednesday.
Two men were arrested for the attack.
Stow's lawsuit in California was automatically stayed by the Dodgers bankruptcy filing in June. The Dodgers had asked the Delaware court to disallow Stow's claims, saying the family cannot prove its allegation that inadequate stadium security contributed to his injuries.
Gross said on Wednesday he would not rule on lifting the stay for now and may decide to hear the Dodgers' request to disallow the claims at a hearing on March 21.
"The Dodgers welcome the opportunity to show the bankruptcy court that they were not the cause of Mr. Stow's injuries, and that the claims against the debtors should be disallowed as a matter of law," the team said in a statement.
Stow's attorney in the California case, Tom Girardi of Girardi & Keese, said the bankruptcy judge was being thorough in considering the Dodgers' request to disallow the claim. Ultimately, Girardi expected the California case would proceed.
"I don't think there's any way the judge will throw this out," Girardi said in a phone message to Reuters.
The Dodgers have said they have up to $300 million of available insurance to cover Stow's claims.
Gross has had success encouraging parties in the Dodgers case to sort out their differences outside court. Last year he ordered the team and Major League Baseball into mediation, which resulted in an agreement by the Dodgers' owner Frank McCourt to sell the team.
The team currently is evaluating offers from several bidders and has agreed to choose a buyer next month.
The bankruptcy case is In Re: Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 11-12010.
(Editing by Dave Zimmerman, Phil Berlowitz and Bernard Orr)