|Kobe against the Grizzlies in 2005. (Getty Images|
Kobe is used to settling things on the court. On Friday, he decided to settle something outside of a different kind of court.
It's pretty well understood that if you sit courtside at an NBA game, you're kind of putting yourself in a position for potential danger. With giant men running around just feet away from you, there's a chance you can go from spectator to involved, very quickly.
Grizzlies fan Bill Geeslin found this out the hard way in a 2005 game between the Lakers and Grizzlies.
Kobe Bryant was hustling after a loose ball in Memphis' 85-73 win over the Lakers. He lunged for it and tumbled into the courtside seats. Geeslin, an insurance agent from Arkansas, came away from the exchange with a bruised lung cavity. And decided to take legal action against Bryant because of it. Via the Commercial-Appeal:
"I recall a fast-paced incident seeing him come to me, running into me and then forearming me," Geeslin said in a 2008 deposition. "He intentionally forearmed me in the chest. He did not apologize. He walked away and pushed — he kind of pushed his arm toward me and glared at me and walked away."
He surmised that Bryant was angry that his team was losing or that the referee called no foul on the Grizzlies.
Geeslin, then 49, died two months after his 2008 deposition, but his estate is continuing with the suit with his mother, Betty Geeslin, substituted as the plaintiff.
There is no allegation that the contact with Bryant caused his death, but Geeslin previously said he felt like "a human punching bag" and filed suit because he felt violated and that Bryant should not be able to "inject such pain."
What happened next? Geeslin's family decided to continue on with the suit and pursued an amount "exceeding $75,000." The case was dismissed in 2010 as it was concluded that "no reasonable juror could conclude that the Defendant intended to harm the Plaintiff when he effectively pushed himself off of Plaintiff's chest to get up and back in the game" and "a reasonable juror could not conclude that Defendant's action was intended to cause Plaintiff harm."
But naturally, it went to through the appeals process and a 6th U.S. Circuit Court decided the district federal court was right to dismiss the emotional distress part. But the lower court was told to consider the assault and battery charges. Via the AP:
The western Tennessee district court ruled that fans sitting courtside assume the risk of such contact. But the three-judge appeals panel said that wouldn't include the alleged forearm shove.
Jury selection was set to begin today. And as you might figure, Kobe didn't want to mess with that. Obviously a completely ridiculous lawsuit, but one that carried on long enough in the legal system to finally force Kobe to either give in and pay up or waste his time with a silly trial.
It makes you wonder if teams are going to consider this nonsense when it comes to courtside seats in the future. With players like Blake Griffin barreling into the seats quite routinely, it's only a matter of time before someone puts togethr another such lawsuit claiming assault.