(CN) – An NFL player and the District of Columbia must face separate claims over the athlete’s brawl with nightclub security last June that drew in DC Metro police, a federal judge ruled.
Owen Collier Jr. and Anthony Smart, security guards at Stadium Nightclub, accused Baltimore Ravens wide receiver LaQuan Williams of instigating a fight after he and his posse were kicked out of the club for smoking marijuana.
As Williams was being escorted to the parking lot, he allegedly punched Smart in the jaw, triggering a melee that drew in DC Metro police.
Collier claims Officer Anthony McRae hit him in the eye with his baton, “causing him serious injuries, including, but not limited to, traumatic brain injury.”
He and Smart filed a seven-count lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court that was later removed to federal court.
Williams moved to dismiss Smart and Collier’s claims of assault and battery, and the district urged the court to toss Collier’s claims of negligence and excessive force.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington, D.C., agreed to dismiss Collier’s assault and battery claim against Williams, as Collier himself admits Williams never struck him. Instead, he argued that Williams, by assaulting Smart, knowingly provoked the brawl that injured him.
Collyer rejected the notion that Williams should be held liable for McRae’s actions.
“The fact that Mr. Collier couches his assault and battery claim against Mr. Williams in the language of negligence and proximate cause – i.e., by making a generic claim of foreseeability – does not save the claim,” she wrote.
Smart, on the other hand, can sue the professional athlete over the alleged assault, Collyer ruled.
“Because Mr. Smart alleges that he suffered harmful or offensive bodily contact when Mr. Williams intentionally punched him ‘without provocation,’ he has stated a claim for battery,” she wrote.
She said Smart’s demand for $50,000 in damages is sufficient, as he claims he “suffered serious bodily injuries, including multiple bruises and contusions over many parts of his body.”
The judge also allowed Collier’s negligence and excessive force claims against the District of Columbia, but rejected his Fifth Amendment claim as “surplusage.”
“Because excessive force claims are specifically addressed by the Fourth Amendment, they must be judged by reference to the Fourth Amendment and not the Fifth,” she explained.
She noted that although the remaining claims all stem from the same incident – the fracas outside Stadium Nightclub – they involve different defendants and should no longer be joined.
“Mr. Collier alleges injury by Officer McRae. Mr. Smart alleges injury by Mr. Williams. These are separate claims against separate defendants that should not be joined,” she wrote.
She remanded Smart’s claim against Williams to the D.C. Superior Court. Collier’s five remaining claims will proceed in federal court.
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