Be careful where you sit at NBA games! Bill Geeslin was sitting courtside at a November 2005 game between the L.A. Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies when Bryant was pushed out of bounds and landed on Geeslin. As Bryant got back up to return to the game, he allegedly struck Geeslin in the chest with his forearm. Geeslin’s complaint alleged that the incident “contributed as a proximate cause” to Geeslin’s death.
The district court granted summary judgment to Bryant, holding that Geeslin had assumed the risk of contact by taking the courtside seat. But the Sixth Circuit, Geeslin v. Bryant, Case No. 10-5820, distinguished between the initial, involuntarily contact between Bryant and Geeslin and the alleged “secondary, offensive contact.” The Sixth Circuit held that Geeslin could have only assumed the risk of the initial, involuntary contact, and therefore, a material question of fact remained as to Geeslin’s assault and battery claims on the alleged secondary, “offensive contact.”
The Sixth Circuit did not go so far, however, as to permit Geeslin’s emotional distress claims. It held that Geeslin’s alleged anxiety and sleeplessness following the incident were not sufficient evidence of “severe mental injury” and noted that “Geeslin’s description of the rough push by Bryant in leaving the scene of the collision does not reach the level of ‘outrageous’ behavior sufficient to support such a claim.”