In the ring, quick and heavy hands can earn a prize fighter fame and fortune. In a public place, they can earn you a personal injury lawsuit. In Fernandez v. Estate of Arturo Gatti, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently considered claims against a former pro boxer allegedly involved in a South Florida brawl.
The case stems from a brawl that occurred in downtown Ft. Lauderdale in the overnight hours of April 11, 2009. Former welterweight boxing champion Arturo “Thunder” Gatti was allegedly involved in the fight, after which Plaintiff Nestor Fernandez was hospitalized for five days. Gatti died roughly three months later in an unrelated homicide. Fernandez filed suit against Gatti’s estate in November 2011, alleging negligence as well as assault and battery.
In order to prove negligence, according to the court, a plaintiff must establish:
(1) a legal duty on the defendant to protect the plaintiff from particular injuries;
(2) the defendant’s breach of that duty;
(3) the plaintiff’s injury being actually and proximately caused by the breach; and
(4) the plaintiff suffering actual harm from the injury.
Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the negligence claim, arguing that Gatti could not be held liable because he was the victim, not the aggressor, in the altercation. In so doing, Defendant pointed to statements by Gatti that he had been “jumped,” which was included a police report compiled after the altercation.
The court denied Defendant’s summary judgment motion, finding that Gatti’s statements, if admissible, “merely show that a genuine issue of material fact exists concerning Mr. Gatti’s role in the brawl.” Furthermore, the court noted that one witness to the fight gave sworn testimony stating that Gatti was “running around beating people up” and another specifically identified Gatti as the person who punched Plaintiff.
For the same reason, the court denied Defendant’s summary judgment motion with respect to the battery claim, which requires proof of both the intent to cause harm to another person and physical contact with the person. The ourt found that Plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact as to whether Gatti punched him and therefore Defendant was not entitled to summary judgment.
The court did, however, grant Defendant’s summary judgment motion on the assault claim. The court noted that “assault and battery are separate and distinct legal concepts, assault being the beginning of an act which, if consummated, constitutes battery.” In other words, assault is “an intentional threat by an act, coupled with an apparent ability to carry out the threat, that creates a fear of imminent violence.” In this case however, the court ruled that Gatti could not have committed assault because the evidence showed that Plaintiff did not see Gatti punch him. Thus, Gatti could not have created a fear of imminent violence, even if he did ultimately punch Plaintiff.
When you are injured, you need a responsible personal injury attorney to help guide you through a potential negligence cause of action and all of the legal remedies available to you. The South Florida negligence attorneys at Anidjar & Levine have vast experience bringing negligence claims on behalf of clients throughout the area, including in Ft. Lauderdale, Hialeah and Boca Raton, injured in a variety of different situations.
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