Joe Schilling has been granted immunity from civil lawsuit filed by Justin Balboa, the man he knocked out in a Florida restaurant.
In an April 19 filing, Broward County (Fla.) circuit court judge Fabienne E. Fahnestock found Schilling was justified in striking Balboa under the state’s Stand Your Ground law because he “reasonably believed” Balboa “posed a threat of great bodily harm to himself.”
“The court further finds that Schilling used only such force necessary to neutralize the threat, and is therefore entitled to immunity, “ Fahnestock wrote in the court order.
In a prepared statement, Schilling attorney David Katz wrote the decision was “a complete and total victory for Schilling, who was widely criticized in social media after this incident occurred.”
Schilling texted a statement to MMA Fighting on the apparent resolution of the case.
Balboa attorney Rich Conforti did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Schilling filed for immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law this past June after Balboa filed suit against the Bellator MMA vet, claiming he was “viciously attacked, physically struck and assaulted” during an altercation at B Square Burgers in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that was caught on video and quickly went viral. Balboa also sued the restaurant’s corporate parent for negligence in allowing the incident to take place.
Balboa’s attorney Conforti said his client had a “considerably high-damages claim” and sought damages in excess of $30,000 from the defendants.
In the video, Balboa is shown talking to patrons and bumps into Schilling, who moves him to the side and continues to walk. Balboa appears to verbally signal Schilling, prompting him to turn around. Balboa then appears to fake a punch and lunge slightly at Schilling, who knocks him out with a pair of punches.
Balboa, speaking to police, later identified 6-foot-3 middleweight Schilling as a 6-foot-5, 270-pound assailant that “cracked” him for no reason, “chased me down” and “beat my ass.”
Fahnestock found that Balboa, who was in the restaurant celebrating a promotion (he told police he was a busboy at Outback Steakhouse), was “boisterous” and “calling attention to himself” and admitted he was intoxicated after a “good” or “decent” number of shots of alcohol and beer.
Balboa, the judge wrote, approached Schilling and a companion’s table, and the companion testified she heard him say “something about fighting” to Schilling. After a “brief” exchange, Schilling asked Balboa to leave the table.
During the interaction caught on tape, Fahnestock found Balboa’s “feinting gesture towards Schilling” made the professional fighter – who testified he was trained to anticipate and respond to punches – believe he was about to be punched.
“Once he believed the threat was neutralized, Schilling returned to his table, paid the bill, and left the restaurant,” Fahnestock wrote.
Katz told MMA Fighting Balboa plans to contest the ruling, but Schilling is now “100 percent in the clear, and the case is over, as far as he’s concerned.”
In the prepared statement, Katz said Schilling aims to recoup the legal expenses he incurred.
“Hopefully the Plaintiff was warned of the risks of filing this lawsuit by his attorneys before filing this suit,” he wrote. “Balboa now stands liable for all of Schilling’s costs and fees for defending this lawsuit, including the trips he had to make from California and the hiring of investigators and experts.”