Polk judge says lawsuit against Peyton Manning, dad can proceed

Updated: November 4, 2003, 2:57 PM ET

BARTOW, Fla. -- A female athletic trainer's defamation lawsuit can proceed against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and his father, a judge ruled.

Judge Harvey Kornstein said Monday there is enough evidence for a jury to hear the case, which stems from a 1996 encounter during which Manning dropped his pants in front of former University of Tennessee trainer Jamie Ann Naughright.

The quarterback, without using Naughright's name, talks about the encounter in the book he wrote with his father, "Manning: A Father, His Sons and a Football Legacy."

Manning says in the book that he pulled down his pants while the trainer was examining his feet in the Volunteers' locker room. He said the trainer had a "vulgar mouth," but concedes his behavior was "inappropriate."

"Crude, maybe, but harmless," he wrote.

Naughright alleges Manning placed his "naked butt" on her face. She filed the lawsuit in Polk County, Fla., in 2002, two years after the book was published, saying it disparaged her and seeking at least $15,000.

Besides Manning and his father, former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, the lawsuit also names writer John Underwood and publisher HarperCollins Inc. A trial is set for March in the lawsuit.

The judge ruled there is enough evidence to suggest the Mannings, the writer and the publisher knew the passages in question were false and acted in reckless disregard for the truth.

Naughright's attorney, Robert Puterbaugh, declined to comment Tuesday. The attorney representing the Mannings and the other defendants did not return a call for comment.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index