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Highlights of Manning’s motion for summary judgment in defamation case

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29:  # of the South Carolina Gamecocks # of the Tennessee Volunteers during their game on October 29, 2005 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo By Streeter Lecka) Getty Images

The 74-page document published six days ago by the New York Daily News told only one side of the lawsuit filed by Jamie Naughright against Peyton Manning and others for defamation of character. Naughright’s lawyers crafted the 74-page document to stave off Manning’s “motion for summary judgment,” a common tool in civil litigation aimed at persuading a judge to find that a case can be resolved without putting any factual disputes in front of a jury.

Basically, the defendant who files a motion for summary judgment says to the judge, “Assume everything that the plaintiff contends is true. Even then, the plaintiff can’t win this case.”

PFT has now obtained and reviewed the briefs submitted in support of Manning’s effort to obtain summary judgment. Key excerpts of the documents, with explanation when necessary, appear below.

In the opening, 52-page brief, the most biting paragraph against Naughright’s case was the first. The full text of it appears below.

“This is the story,” Manning’s lawyers wrote, “of a collegiate athletic trainer who parlayed a minor incident with one of the most well-known athletes in the country into a $300,000 settlement with the University of Tennessee and then went on to a small Florida college for collect another settlement check of $65,000 after being properly transferred to another position at the college. She now has filed this baseless libel suit seeking another substantial settlement from the celebrity athlete, his equally well-known father, a noted sportswriter, and a major book publisher based on a few paragraphs in a book that never even identified her by name. By this suit, the libel plaintiff seeks to settle old scores with the famous college athlete and with former colleagues at the University of Tennessee and at Florida Southern College by dragging them through extended discovery while hoping to have yet another financial windfall at the end of the day. This misuse of the legal system must end.”

The 52-page brief then went on to summarize the facts of the case from the defendants’ perspective. Less than a full page was devoted to the much-disputed “mooning” incident of 1996. The full text of the defendants’ characterization of that incident is as follows, with citations to the record of the case omitted.

“On February 29, 1996, Plaintiff and Peyton Manning were both in a training room in the athletic facility at UT,” Manning’s lawyers explained. “While the exact details of what occurred in the training room are disputed, the parties are in universal agreement that Peyton Manning dropped his shorts and exposed his rear end and that Plaintiff saw the exposed rear end (the ‘Mooning Incident’). . . . Peyton Manning’s description of the Mooning Incident is set forth in his Affidavit. . . . Significantly, what exactly occurred in the training room is not at issue in this motion. Upon learning, as discussed below, that Plaintiff was upset by the Mooning Incident, Peyton Manning attempted to visit Plaintiff at her office on March 1, placed several calls to Plaintiff’s home, and sent her a card apologizing for his behavior. . . . In addition, Peyton Manning was disciplined by his coach Phillip Fulmer for his behavior by being required to run every morning at 6 a.m. for two weeks. . . . As part of his punishment, Peyton Manning was also banned for a period of time from eating at his usual location, the training table in Gibbs Hall, which caused a severe disruption in his training regimen.”

The description of the incident mentioned an affidavit of Peyton Manning, which has been widely circulated on the Internet in recent days. The “Mooning Incident” is described at paragraphs 6 through 19. Manning contended that, while wearing “a pair of shorts and a jock strap,” his foot was being examined by Naughright, and he was talking to Malcolm Saxon, who was sitting a few tables away from Manning.

“Once off the table, [Naughright] moved behind me so that she could examine my foot,” Manning said at paragraph 8 of the affidavit. “At that point, Mr. Saxon made a comment to me intended as a joke regarding my then-girlfriend (now my wife), the substance of which I cannot recall. After hearing his comment, I pulled down my shorts for about one second to expose my buttocks to him, or as is colloquially known, to ‘moon’ him.”

At paragraphs 9 and 10, Manning said, “I immediately pulled my shorts back up while [Naughright] continued to examine my foot. My shorts were never down farther than exposing my buttocks. I did not pull them down to my ankles. [Naughright] then finished examining my foot, told me to get back up on the table, and said that I should get some ice on my foot. I then iced my foot, during which time [Naughright] stayed in the training room. I iced my foot for fifteen or twenty minutes, the standard time for such a treatment. During this time [Naughright], who remained in the training room, did not seem uncomfortable or upset.”

(Saxon would later dispute Manning’s version of the events directly in an affidavit, and indirectly in a December 2002 letter to Peyton Manning. Surprisingly, Saxon never was questioned under oath in the lawsuit.)

At paragraph 13 of Manning’s affidavit, he explained that Tennessee head trainer Mike Rollo “came to my apartment around 11 p.m.” and “asked me whether or not anything had happened with [Naughright] earlier in the day, and because I did not believe that she saw my mooning of Mr. Saxon and she never raised any issues with me, I said no. He asked again and I asked him if it had anything to do with my mooning Mr. Saxon, to which he said yes. I was surprised to hear from Mr. Rollo that night she was upset.”

At paragraphs 14 through 17, Manning described various efforts to contact Naughright and to apologize to her for whatever it was that happened, culminating in the sending of a card to her on March 14.

To summarize, Manning admitted to dropping his pants, claimed that it was a “mooning” meant for Malcolm Saxon (who would later dispute portions of Manning’s story), and believed Naughright didn’t see what had happened. Manning also essentially admitted that, later that night, enough of a stir had been created to result in a late-night visit from the school’s head trainer, followed by repeated efforts by Manning to personally apologize.

Next in the 52-page brief, Manning’s lawyer devoted ample space to outlining the specific legal arguments that justified judgment in the defendants’ favor. The first argument arose from a statutory technicality, requiring five days notice to be provided before the filing of certain types of defamation cases in Florida. The second argument centered on the disputed passages from the book on which the lawsuit was based, claiming that the excerpts are “substantially true.” As part of the second argument, the defendants claimed that the statements at issue were expressions of opinion not fact. (An expression of opinion cannot give rise to a claim for defamation.)

The third argument contended that Naughright had become a “public figure,” which makes a defamation case harder to prove by requiring clear and convincing proof of actual malice in the publication of false information. The fourth argument focused on the absence of clear and convincing proof of actual malice. The fifth argument claimed that none of the defendants acted with negligence in the publication of the disputed passages in the book.

After filing the effort to secure “summary judgment,” Naughright’s lawyers wrote and submitted the much-discussed 74-page document, published a week ago by the Daily News. Manning’s lawyers then had the last word (which is normal protocol), submitting a seven-page “reply memorandum” in support of the motion.

“This case is about whether a reasonable reader of the book Manning could conclude that two discrete passages that refer to, without naming, Plaintiff Jamie Naughright defame Plaintiff,” Manning’s lawyers wrote in the first paragraph of the reply brief. “In her Opposition Papers, Plaintiff goes to great lengths to create the illusion that there is something more at issue here. But Plaintiff’s seventy-four pages of self-serving ‘facts’ and extraordinary one-sided rhetoric are simply a diversion. This Court should concentrate on the contents of the Book itself.”

The remainder of the seven-page reply brief contained mostly legal analysis, with a couple of key exceptions. At page 4, Manning’s lawyers wrote that, in her 74-page document, “Plaintiff claims for the first time to have been ‘assaulted’ by Peyton Manning.” At page 5, Manning’s lawyers addressed Naughright’s claim that the Manning book characterized her as litigious: “First, the Passages do not state that Plaintiff is litigious. And, even if they did, by Plaintiff’s own admission, she is litigious! Plaintiff has started administrative proceedings against and/or threatened to sue the only two employers she has ever had in her academic career. And she has sued five separate Defendants in this action, which arises out of precisely the same facts that gave rise to her legal proceedings and threats against UT and Florida Southern College.” (She would later sue fashion designed Donna Karan and others for injuries allegedly inflicted by a physical therapist in Karan’s Manhattan apartment.)

The presiding judge denied the motion for summary judgment, putting the case on track for trial. In a separate post, we’ll explain the judge’s decision.

Meanwhile, later today I’ll be recording for the first time a special PFT Live podcast (which makes it, you know, not “live”) aimed at explaining the case to those who have never practiced law, have never gone to law school, and/or have never watched My Cousin Vinny.

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35 Responses to “Highlights of Manning’s motion for summary judgment in defamation case”
  1. nhpats says: Feb 20, 2016 11:20 AM

    Who cares. Let’s get back to talking about something relevant…..like why Cam was afraid to try and recover his own fumble….

  2. eagles1960 says: Feb 20, 2016 11:22 AM

    Tsk tsk, Peyton your a bad boy.

  3. imodan says: Feb 20, 2016 11:27 AM

    Shocking that Saxon was never questioned under oath. I guess the fall guy doesn’t get to tell the truth in court.

  4. tajuara says: Feb 20, 2016 11:34 AM

    Why was Saxon never questioned under oath? Also he never claimed that there was contact, his claim was that Manning exposed to the plaintiff and not to him. He could have said that Manning pushed or forced himself into the plaintiff, but he said “exposed”.

  5. ariani1985 says: Feb 20, 2016 11:36 AM

    Yeah, lets get back to bashing Cam or the Washington team.

  6. cross300 says: Feb 20, 2016 11:55 AM

    This is an embarrasment. The entire manning family should be embarrassed by this. This is what an entitied rich child does when he always gets his way. Grow up Peyton.

  7. truthfactory says: Feb 20, 2016 12:09 PM

    From what I understand, Sadon originally backed most of Mannings version, then had a separate lawsuit of his own and changed his story.

    I don’t know of anyone personally that has ever filed or won one of these cases… This woman has apparently succeed many times from separate cases to win money. Either she is extremely unlucky, or just a “professional victim”.

  8. joeconnorjr says: Feb 20, 2016 12:33 PM

    Let’s wait for Mike’s article on why the judge denied summary judgment. A judge can deny such a motion only if there is a genuine, disputed issue of material fact. Once that fact is identified, we should have a better idea of who might be exaggerating (or lying) and why. In my opinion, when the dust settles and we have all available information, none of the parties is going to look especially good.

  9. floratiotime says: Feb 20, 2016 12:34 PM

    A teenage boy behaved inappropriately. I’m so shocked.

  10. joeconnorjr says: Feb 20, 2016 12:42 PM

    By the way, things must be getting serious. In the last week, no one has posted any funny and sarcastic take-offs on the Nationwide jingle.

  11. luvpeytonmanning says: Feb 20, 2016 12:55 PM

    So sick of all of this crap leave the guy alone.

  12. trolling the trolls says: Feb 20, 2016 1:04 PM

    I ain’t saying’ she’s a gold digger, but…..

  13. abninf says: Feb 20, 2016 1:07 PM

    And Mitt Romney bullied a kid back in high school.

  14. jackfan2 says: Feb 20, 2016 1:15 PM

    If PM runs for office as a Republican, as a liberal Democrat I would vote against him. However, he certainly showed America how to respond to age discrimination. He went off and took a new employer to two Superbowls! While his young replacement has already sat out a year due to injury. Nice, Peyton. That’s how all working Joes would love to give the finger to a former employer who dumps an iron man, exceptional worker because there’s a cheaper, younger alternative. He should be a liberal icon!

  15. orange and blue owns the NFL says: Feb 20, 2016 1:16 PM

    The whole “rubbed in her face” bit never made sense, considering she was examining his foot. The more that comes out is making this look less and less a big deal, except in a certain part of the country.

  16. sonhoodoo says: Feb 20, 2016 1:38 PM

    Sure, she couldn’t be identified in the book. But someone apparently left a copy on her desk with a disparaging note. They seem to have been able to identify her.

  17. j0esixpack says: Feb 20, 2016 2:11 PM

    Knowing Peyton and Archie Manning, they’ll be able to brush this sexual abuse aside and turn it into a million dollar endorsement for Lipton Tea Bags

    Of course, the notion that Peyton has personally tea bagged Papa John’s Pizza Sauce and every batch of Budweiser will probably come back to haunt them

  18. distracted9 says: Feb 20, 2016 2:13 PM

    It seems less about him rubbing his junk on her and more about him defaming her character and the way he slandered her.. Saying she’s filthy for being with black men is where I think we all have issues.

  19. ebdug says: Feb 20, 2016 2:21 PM

    Briefs and depositions can be fun, but dontcha just wish Peyton would moon Naughright in the hallway.

  20. VenerableAxiom says: Feb 20, 2016 2:21 PM

    cross300 says:
    Feb 20, 2016 11:55 AM

    This is an embarrasment. The entire manning family should be embarrassed by this. This is what an entitied rich child does when he always gets his way. Grow up Peyton.
    ———
    Considering this all occurred 22 years ago, I’d say it’s safe to say he’s “grown up” now.

  21. clashpoint says: Feb 20, 2016 2:26 PM

    Let’s put this in context: It’s a 20+ years old mooning. I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has expired. I think it’s worth about $20 on a Papa John’s gift card.

  22. dougchillin says: Feb 20, 2016 2:28 PM

    No one cares

  23. VenerableAxiom says: Feb 20, 2016 3:18 PM

    With pats not winning the SB, our hits and comments from one of our largest market groups has gone down the toilet. Idea’s… Let’s run another hit piece on Peyton’s credibility with a little character assassination thrown in. Yeah! that always fires ’em up.
    But it was when he was 19 when it allegedly occurred.
    Doesn’t matter, they’ll lap it up.

  24. pointtwopsiistheissue says: Feb 20, 2016 3:26 PM

    Considering this all occurred 22 years ago, I’d say it’s safe to say he’s “grown up” now.
    ——————————————————–
    Yeah he’s progressed to having a banned substance delivered to his home.

    BTW the booked was published in 2001, 4th grade math says that was 15 years ago.

  25. abninf says: Feb 20, 2016 6:05 PM

    jackfan2 says:

    He should be a liberal icon!
    ==================================

    You already have Michael Sam.

  26. revren10 says: Feb 20, 2016 6:16 PM

    ped’s, witness intimidation, sexual assault on women. Thank god this guy isn’t the qb of my team.

  27. YouCryin?PatsMustBeDoingTheirJob says: Feb 20, 2016 6:18 PM

    Fraud to the highest degree.

  28. imodan says: Feb 20, 2016 6:29 PM

    VenerableAxiom says:
    Feb 20, 2016 3:18 PM

    With pats not winning the SB, our hits and comments from one of our largest market groups has gone down the toilet. Idea’s… Let’s run another hit piece on Peyton’s credibility with a little character assassination thrown in. Yeah! that always fires ’em up.
    But it was when he was 19 when it allegedly occurred.
    Doesn’t matter, they’ll lap it up.
    ———————————————————
    Remember when saints fans were saying their team was being treated unfairly and fans should wake up because it could happen to your team? We all know Pats fans defended the wall warning that Brady was being railroaded with false information and the press was eating it up, immediately determining Brady and the pats guilt without question and that fans better wake up to the injustice because it was just a matter of time before it happened to your guy? Well, here it is again. You were warned. And yes, it’s just a matter of time before it’s another guy so maybe it’s time to tap the brakes on gloating on another’s misery.

  29. TheWizard says: Feb 20, 2016 6:37 PM

    A teenage boy behaved inappropriately. I’m so shocked.

    He was 20? I watch documentaries about guys that age getting blown out of the sky in B17’s over Germany, so don’t lay the age crap on us.

  30. dallascowboysforever says: Feb 20, 2016 8:16 PM

    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned the claim that Peyton Manning cheated academically in college at the University of Tennessee? That’s what Jamie Naughright accused Peyton Manning of doing in one report. It could be just one reason why the Mannings went after Naughright’s reputation.

  31. pensacolavolfan says: Feb 20, 2016 8:21 PM

    dallascowboysforever says:
    Feb 20, 2016 8:16 PM
    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned the claim that Peyton Manning cheated academically in college at the University of Tennessee? That’s what Jamie Naughright accused Peyton Manning of doing in one report. It could be just one reason why the Mannings went after Naughright’s reputation.

    Because that class was a Pass-Fail class where the grade was based on attendance. Know your facts it is Jamie Naughright who has the problem. Manning graduated with a 3.61 GPA and graduated with honors in 3 years. That class was a 1 hour freshman orientation class. She is either saying he didn’t show up or he sent a body double. either way she has proven over aqnd over to be unreliable.

  32. VenerableAxiom says: Feb 20, 2016 8:43 PM

    pointtwopsiistheissue says:
    Feb 20, 2016 3:26 PM

    Considering this all occurred 22 years ago, I’d say it’s safe to say he’s “grown up” now.
    ——————————————————–
    Yeah he’s progressed to having a banned substance delivered to his home.

    BTW the booked was published in 2001, 4th grade math says that was 15 years ago.
    ——–
    “On February 29, 1996, Plaintiff and Peyton Manning were both in a training room in the athletic facility at UT,”

    My bad, basic 3rd grade math and reading comprehension indicate it was actually 20 years ago. Could you please direct me to where I can find the evidence of him having a banned substance delivered to his home.

  33. VenerableAxiom says: Feb 20, 2016 9:11 PM

    imodan says:
    Feb 20, 2016 6:29 PM

    VenerableAxiom says:
    Feb 20, 2016 3:18 PM

    With pats not winning the SB, our hits and comments from one of our largest market groups has gone down the toilet. Idea’s… Let’s run another hit piece on Peyton’s credibility with a little character assassination thrown in. Yeah! that always fires ’em up.
    But it was when he was 19 when it allegedly occurred.
    Doesn’t matter, they’ll lap it up.
    ———————————————————
    Remember when saints fans were saying their team was being treated unfairly and fans should wake up because it could happen to your team? We all know Pats fans defended the wall warning that Brady was being railroaded with false information and the press was eating it up, immediately determining Brady and the pats guilt without question and that fans better wake up to the injustice because it was just a matter of time before it happened to your guy? Well, here it is again. You were warned. And yes, it’s just a matter of time before it’s another guy so maybe it’s time to tap the brakes on gloating on another’s misery.
    ——–
    So the moral of the story is don’t be a hypocrite like all the pats fans piling on Manning.

  34. 1down2fortheshow says: Feb 20, 2016 10:18 PM

    Why does Florio seem to be carrying water for the Mannings in every article he writes?

  35. dualprime says: Feb 21, 2016 5:29 PM

    imodan says:
    Feb 20, 2016 11:27 AM
    Shocking that Saxon was never questioned under oath. I guess the fall guy doesn’t get to tell the truth in court.
    =============
    Just like the Deflator!

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