Pro Football Player Sues Team over Fight, Claiming Negligence

Jun 19, 2004

A former scout team player for the Carolina Panthers has sued his former employer and Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith for what he claimed was an unprovoked attack by Smith during a film room session.
Anthony Bright, who led the Arena Football League in receiving in 2001, alleged in his complaint that since Smith attacked him on the afternoon of November 18, 2002 and that he “has been unable to perform at the level he did prior to the assault and has been unable to become part of another National Football League team.”
Bright is being represented by attorney Guy Crabtree of Pulley, Watson, King & Lischer, P.A., a personal injury law firm in Durham, N.C.
In addition to Smith, the Panthers were named as a defendant.
Specifically, Bright alleged that the Panthers “negligently hired, retained and supervised Smith and this negligent conduct was a direct and proximate cause and contributing factor of and to the assault on Plaintiff.”
He also claimed that the team, prior to the attack, “made no attempt … to do anything to ensure that Defendant Smith would keep his temper and violent propensity in check.”
That “propensity” was described by the plaintiff as an “ongoing pattern of behavior. … Prior to attacking Plaintiff, Defendant Smith had attacked and either struck or choked other teammates on the Carolina Panthers team, and individuals not associated the Carolina Panthers. In one such incident, Defendant Smith grabbed and choked another teammate in the team shower.”
The incident involving Bright, according to the complaint, was sparked by Bright’s request to rewind a portion of film so that he could see a play again. After the request, the defendant allegedly cursed Bright “and, without warning, viciously attacked him.” The complaint further claims that Smith beat Bright about the head and face, “causing several broken bones and nerve damage.”
The attack left the plaintiff hospitalized for two days at Carolinas Medical Center. Crabtree even attached a photo to show the damage after the incident. Bright was released by the Carolina Panthers at the end of the 2002-2003 seasons. He also had to have additional surgeries the following year. Bright failed to make an NFL roster last year and, while playing in the AFL this spring, he has not regained the form he had in 2001.
Crabtree suggested that Bright is “more susceptible to head injury now. He has difficulty concentrating and difficulty breathing at times. I’d defer to a physician, but it’s safe to say he still feels the affects what happened.”
Bright is seeking actual and punitive damages in excess of $10,000.
After the incident, Smith was suspended for one game and fined. Criminal charges were filed against Smith, but those were dismissed May 4 after he entered a deferred-prosecution program. Smith has not missed a beat on the field, however, where he led the Panthers in receiving last year and recently signed a 6-year, $26.5 million contract.


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