On the night of Nov. 14, 2005, Memphis Grizzlies fans went home happy with the team’s 85-73 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at FedExForum.
One of those fans, Bill Geeslin, an insurance agent from Blytheville, Ark., also went home with a bruised lung cavity that he said was caused when Lakers star Kobe Bryant forearmed him in the chest.
Bryant was running for a loose ball and his momentum carried him into Geeslin, who was seated courtside near the basket, according to his long-standing federal suit that was settled Friday.
“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.
Here’s where it gets ridiculous…
He was diagnosed with a bruised lung cavity, was given Ibuprofen and another medicine and a breathing machine to be used at home. Geeslin’s symptoms went away after two weeks, according to court papers, but he suffered anxiety and was given sleep aids by his doctor.
Bryant, through his attorneys, acknowledged he landed in the spectator section at one point during the game, but denied Geeslin’s allegations of assault and battery and outrageous conduct.
The suit, which asked for unspecified damages exceeding $75,000, was dismissed in 2010 by U.S. Dist. Judge S. Thomas Anderson, who said a spectator assumes a risk when attending a game and that the contact Bryant made with Geeslin was not offensive.
“Here, the defendant pushed plaintiff in the chest before returning to the game,” Anderson wrote. “There can be no reasonable infringement of one’s personal dignity from contact arising from the retrieval of a basketball under these facts.”
Last December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed there were no grounds for Geeslin’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, but sent the case back to the trial court on his assault and battery claims.
“Although (Anderson) found that Geeslin had ‘assumed the risk or consented to the entire contact between he and the defendant’ by virtue of taking a courtside seat,” the appellate judges said, “we find that the analysis applies only to the initial contact between Geeslin and Bryant and not the secondary, offensive contact described by Geeslin.”
The three-judge panel also noted that Bryant offered neither a deposition nor an affidavit in opposition.
With jury selection scheduled to start here Monday, the case quietly ended Friday afternoon with a confidential settlement.