LOS ANGELES – A Garden Grove couple and the owners/operators of Staples Center on Tuesday settled in midtrial a lawsuit alleging that the negligent design of a food and beverage shelf and a tempered glass barrier contributed to the death of their son who fell out of a luxury suite to his death in 2010.
The terms of the settlement between Henry Tang and Hoia Mi Nguyen, and L.A. Arena Co. and L.A. Arena Funding, were not divulged. The nearly 3-year-old boy, Lucas Tang, died after a game between the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 21, 2010.
“We’re very happy that it’s been resolved,” said the couple’s attorney, Scott Wellman.
Wellman said the terms of the settlement were confidential. He previously said that after the lawsuit was filed, the suites were redesigned without the food and beverage shelves.
Nguyen, 35, said outside the courtroom that she and Tang, 36, 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.
The boy fell 25 feet from a luxury suite while his mother was taking photos of him with her iPhone after she stood him atop the food and beverage shelf. The suite’s glass guardrail was constructed 10 inches above the shelf in front of the lower level suite seats, but was several inches higher at the bottom of a short stairwell that takes guests between the upper and lower seats. The boy fell over the part that was 10 inches high.
Former state Fire Marshal James McMullen testified Monday that Staples Center was required to meet state Building Code standards at minimum regardless of what is permitted by the city of Los Angeles. He said the glass guardrail should have been constructed 26 inches above the shelf rather than just 10 inches.
He said regardless of their intended purpose, the ledges invite people to stand on them because anyone wanting to use them to enhance their view of the event in the arena would have his or her back to the activities if they merely sat on them.
McMullen also said that despite being issued a certificate of occupancy by the city before Staples Center opened, there was no guarantee that every facet of the arena was in compliance with the Building Code.
Defense attorney Dana Fox maintained Nguyen was inattentive as her son, while standing on the shelf next to the higher level of the glass at the stairwell, walked to where the level of the glass is lower and tumbled from the suite.