Is Draymond Green in for another summer legal battle?
According to a statement tweeted on Monday by high-profile Los Angeles attorney Lisa Bloom, a yet-to-be-named “young” man and woman will file a lawsuit against Green on Tuesday. In the lawsuit, the duo will allege that Green engaged in physical assault, bullying and misleading statements. Green’s alleged behavior, according to Bloom, has “severely impacted” her clients’ lives. It is unclear how much money the plaintiffs will seek in damages, but Bloom’s statement references a demand for Green to apologize.
Green is no stranger to the legal process. Last summer, the 27-year-old Golden State Warriors forward was arrested for misdemeanor assault after he and another man had a late-night brawl in East Lansing, Mich. Green ultimately worked out a plea deal with prosecutors where the misdemeanor charge was dropped in exchange for Green accepting responsibility for a noise violation and paying a $560 fine.
It is unknown if the pending lawsuit has any relationship to the Michigan incident. Bloom, a well-known civil rights attorney who represented Janice Dickinson in her defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby, is admitted to the California and New York bars. Public records, however, do not indicate that she is also admitted to the Michigan bar. While Bloom could still work out an arrangement to represent the clients if the incident occurred in Michigan, it is more likely that the incident occurred in California or possibly New York.
Assuming California is the relevant jurisdiction for the lawsuit, then the incident would have occurred within the last two years. Under California law, lawsuits related to injuries to a person must be filed within two years of the injury.
Although an accompanying police report is by no means required for the filing of a personal injury lawsuit, the pending lawsuit against Green would likely be strengthened if law enforcement played any role in chronicling Green’s alleged misconduct. A police report would signal that the incident or incidents in question attracted the notice of law enforcement. If no such report exists, the claims against Green may be harder to prove.
That said, the burden in a civil lawsuit is the “preponderance of evidence,” which means the jury believes the plaintiff's allegations are more likely true than not, rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a much higher criminal burden. The plaintiffs are poised to argue that Green committed what are known as “intentional torts,” meaning Green will be accused of willfully causing the man and woman physical harm. Given that Green is accused of “misleading statements,” it’s possible the lawsuit will also include a defamation claim, with Green alleged to have lied about the plaintiffs in a way that caused them reputational harm. As in any lawsuit, surveillance video, audio recordings, emails, texts and social media postings could all play important roles as forms of evidence.
Bloom’s notice of a lawsuit is intriguing for several reasons. First, it is uncommon for a lawyer to tweet out notice of a pending lawsuit; usually a lawsuit is filed and then the lawyer publicly comments. Here, Bloom indicates that she will host a press conference at her law firm on Tuesday at 9 a.m. PT to explain the forthcoming lawsuit. By providing media with roughly 18-hour advance notice of the lawsuit and related press conference, Bloom provides journalists with a “heads up” about the case and also a time and location to ask her questions. Such a move also plays into a litigation media strategy: Bloom ensures the lawsuit will receive at least two days of news coverage. The more the media covers the lawsuit, the more damage it might cause to Green’s reputation.
Bloom may have another purpose as well. She may be signaling to Green that he has little time left to accept settlement terms that would be agreeable to the accusers. If Green doesn’t pay up, both the lawsuit and press conference will go forward, and both could embarrass Green. Indeed, Bloom’s strategy appears focused on portraying Green as a “bully,” with Bloom deriding Green as “a bully both on and off the basketball court.”
Green has much to protect. Over the course of his NBA career, Green has reportedly signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, Major League Fantasy, Foot Locker and Verizon. While terms of those endorsement deals are confidential, each undoubtedly contains a “morals clause.” Such a clause enables an endorsed company to exit an endorsement deal if the endorsing athlete becomes tangled up in a public controversy. It’s unknown if the pending lawsuit against Green will contain the kinds of allegations that might cause such controversy. It’s worth stressing that even the allegations are damaging, they are only allegations until proven. Green’s endorsed companies will likely stand by him—just like they stood by him last summer following his arrest.
Green, like any player implicated in a controversy, is also subject to possible discipline by his team or the NBA. Under Article 35 of the league constitution, NBA commissioner Adam Silver can suspend players for “conduct that does not conform to standards of morality or fair play, that does not comply at all times with all federal, state, and local laws, or that is prejudicial or detrimental to the NBA.” Don’t expect Silver to invoke Article 35 as a way of punishing Green anytime soon. Silver did not invoke Article 35 after Derrick Rose was sued and tried (unsuccessfully) for sexual assault. Silver has generally waited for the legal process to play out before punishing players.
Michael McCann, SI's legal analyst, provides legal and business analysis for The Crossover. He is also the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.