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On Aug. 10, 2000, an 11-year-old girl grew bored watching the Philadelphia Phillies play the San Diego Padres. She told her aunt she was going to the bathroom, but instead wandered through Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium alone. There she met three teenage boys working at a Rita’s Water Ice concession stand and hung out with them for over an hour before returning to her seat and an angry aunt. The game was nearly over, and the girl pleaded with her aunt to let her say goodbye to her new friends before leaving. Her guardian acquiesced, but when the game ended and her niece wasn’t back, the aunt set off looking for her. She wandered through the stadium and the parking lot without any luck. After a half-hour, the exasperated aunt asked for help. A stadium employee drove her in a golf cart through the parking lot, where she finally found the young girl crying behind a dumpster. In March, the girl (now 16) and her attorneys went into a civil trial against the Phillies and the three boys she met, John Scaruzzi, Joseph Fabrizzio and Michael Ibbetson. (Because she is a minor, the full names of the girl and her guardian are sealed.) She sought more than $12 million in damages. Ibbetson and Scaruzzi were adjudicated of rape in a 2000 criminal trial, though Ibbetson never responded to subpoenas to appear in court. The civil trial, CCH et al. v. Philadelphia Phillies Inc. et al., took place in Philadelphia’s Courtroom 625, the city’s only high-tech courtroom. It is outfitted with a video presentation system, monitors, a plasma screen with a Smart Overlay, a teleconference system and other sophisticated litigation technology. The Phillies’ attorneys, led by Robert Reger from Reger Rizzo Kavulich & Darnall, argued that they needed the courtroom in order to display a 3-D digital model of Veterans Stadium. (The actual stadium was imploded in 2004 to make room for Citizens Bank Park.) PLAINTIFF’S CASE The plaintiff’s case against the Phillies hinged on the alleged negligence of stadium employees, who have an official policy of aiding fans in finding missing persons. Both the girl and her aunt said they had asked employees for help in finding each other at different times, according to their attorney, Alan Schwartz, of Anapol Schwartz Weiss Cohan Feldman & Smalley. Schwartz alleged that the child was ignored by stadium employees. She went to the parking lot after the game, where she encountered her three new friends, who were waiting for their own ride home. Two of the boys were 15 years old, and one was 16 at the time. They took the girl to a secluded part of the parking lot and, the girl said, tore off her pants and raped her. The Phillies’ defense strategy revolved around the timeline given by the aunt and her niece. “Experts from the Phillies said that the version of the events of the plaintiffs was impossible,” said Cathleen Kelly, a Reger Rizzo associate on the case, now with Daller Greenberg & Dietrich. The defense hired an architectural digital modeling firm, Philadelphia-based AEI Digital, to render an interactive model of the stadium that could be displayed on the screens around the courtroom. The company created a model by placing a digitally drawn design over an aerial photograph of the stadium site. AEI and Reger Rizzo started the process about six months prior to trial, said Michael Schuldt, president of AEI. “It was essentially a video game interface,” he said. Rather than creating a scripted computer animation that would take the jury through a virtual tour of the stadium, AEI used an interactive interface that gave the attorneys the ability to zoom in and out, as well as other things not possible with a physical model. (The plaintiff’s counsel used a 5-by-4-foot physical model of the stadium.) AEI created a basic model of the stadium and then added pre-set “camera” locations that were listed in a drop-down menu. The attorneys could click on one and the view would zoom into a specific portion of the stadium with a link to an actual evidence photo from the scene. Using the scale digital model, said Kelly, the defense could show exactly where and how far the girl and her aunt had traveled in the stadium over a specific amount of time. The case was made when the defense used the model to point out that, following the aunt’s own version of events, she walked right past the police/security office without asking for help, said Kelly. THE OUTCOME Michael Ibbetson did not respond to a subpoena or appear in court, and Judge Paul Panepinto entered a default judgment against him for $1.3 million. Scaruzzi and Fabrizzio testified in the civil case, but the court refused to permit evidence of their conviction on the grounds that they were minors, said Schwartz. After a 22-day trial and nearly eight hours of jury deliberation, the eight-member jury unanimously found that the two boys and the Phillies were not at fault. On behalf of his client, Schwartz said he plans to appeal the decision. This article originally appeared in Law Technology News , a publication of ALM.

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