Man seeks more than $33,000 in lawsuit

Updated: February 26, 2004, 12:47 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- The Fenway Park groundskeeper who was involved in a bullpen brawl with two former New York Yankees has sued the players for more than $33,000 for medical bills, lost wages and his sense of smell.

Paul K. Williams Jr. claimed his October fight with former Yankees relief pitcher Jeff Nelson and former right fielder Karim Garcia left him with a deviated septum, broken teeth, a neck injury and cleat marks on his body, according to the suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

The fight occurred during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, several innings after a bench-clearing melee that started when Garcia was plunked by Boston's Pedro Martinez.

Williams said Nelson attacked him because he was cheering for the Red Sox in the Yankees' bullpen. But Nelson has said it was Williams who provoked the fight after the pitcher calmly asked him not to cheer for Boston. Garcia jumped the outfield wall to join in after the fight had broken out.

Williams, a part-time groundskeeper and special education teacher from Derry, N.H., said he has already spent $18,785 to treat severe injuries that occurred from the scuffle. He planned to spend an additional $12,000 on medical procedures, according to the suit.

Williams also claimed $3,000 in lost wages, bringing the total cost of the brawl to $33,785.

Garcia's lawyer, Gerard F. Malone, told The Boston Globe that an attorney for Williams had threatened a lawsuit shortly after the Oct. 11 fight and that he was not surprised.

"We'll deal with these things as they come," Malone said.

Nelson's lawyer, James M. Merberg, declined to comment.

Nelson, Garcia and Williams all pleaded not guilty to assault and battery charges last month. Nelson on Thursday maintained his innocence and said he will contest Williams' lawsuit.

"It's ridiculous," said Nelson, who signed with the Rangers in the offseason. "I'm not guilty at all, so why should I give into something that I didn't do?

"What do I have to gain by jumping on a grounds crew guy? As hard as I've worked 12 years in the major leagues to build my reputation, what I give back to the community ... and I'm going to ruin it by jumping on a grounds crew guy? No."

Lawyers for Nelson and Garcia, who is now with the Mets, appeared in court without their clients Tuesday for a brief status hearing. Judge Edward Redd scheduled pretrial hearings on March 18 for Nelson, March 22 for Garcia and April 5 for Williams, Suffolk District Attorney spokesman David A. Procopio said. All three defendants were ordered to attend the hearings, where Redd said he may set trial dates.

Prosecutors have said they'd be open to a plea deal with the players and Williams, but negotiations have so far been unsuccessful, Procopio said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press