Security guard sues former Bobcat and his wife

mgordon@charlotteobserver.comDecember 23, 2013 

The last lick from a year-old nightclub brawl involving a wife and a fiancee of Charlotte Bobcats players may be landed in court – by a security guard who claims he was struck twice by the driver of a Land Rover attempting to flee the scene.

Robert D. Churchill has filed suit in Mecklenburg Superior Court against Jaime Patrice Thomas, the driver of the SUV. Churchill has also sued the vehicle’s owner, Thomas’ husband and then-Bobcat Tyrus Thomas.

No court date has been assigned.

On Dec. 13, 2012, Jaime Thomas was one of six people arrested in the early morning hours outside the Label nightclub, north of uptown. Sascha Smith, fiancee of Bobcats shooting guard Ben Gordon, also was charged.

All six attended a party hosted by NBA star and North Carolina native Chris Paul, along with Kaya Jones, lead singer for the Pussycat Dolls.

In his lawsuit, Churchill claims he was working in the parking lot when Jaime Thomas “violently, suddenly and unexpectedly” drove into him with her vehicle, then did it a second time as she tried to flee police. The suit states Churchill still suffers “great physical pain and mental anguish” from injuries to his hand and knee.

His complaint, filed by Charlotte attorney William Holman, accuses Jaime Thomas of driving while intoxicated and attempting to flee the scene after her vehicle struck Churchill.

Churchill calls for penalties in excess of $10,000 for negligence, pain and suffering, medical expenses and punitive damages, among other claims.

Churchill has also filed a so-called “vicarious negligence” claim against Tyrus Thomas because he owned the car.

Heather Connor of Charlotte, Tyrus Thomas’ attorney, could not be reached for comment this week. In her client’s response to the lawsuit, Connor asks that Churchill’s claims be thrown out, in part, she says, because he contributed to his own injuries by being careless, negligent and by failing to yield the right of way.

Jaime Thomas still faces criminal charges of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest. In September, she was found not guilty of a related DWI charge.

Twice in the aftermath of the fight, according to the lawsuit, Thomas drove her vehicle into Churchill, who was working that night as a security guard in the parking lot of the nearby North Carolina Music Factory.

The second collision occurred when police arrived and Thomas tried to drive out of the parking lot, according to the lawsuit and incident reports.

Afterward, when Jaime Thomas refused to leave her vehicle, she became the subject of a tug-of-war between police and another woman in the SUV. During that struggle, Thomas was injured badly enough to be taken to a hospital for treatment. Her mugshot, which displayed a bruised and battered face surrounded by long blonde hair, soon went viral as an enduring image of the brawl.

Tyrus Thomas, a former first-round NBA draft pick out of LSU, joined the Bobcats in 2010 and soon signed a 5-year, $40 million contract with the team. However, he did not live up to expectations and was waived in July and has not been signed by another NBA team.

Though he is not playing, the Bobcats will pay him $8.7 million this season and $9.3 million for 2014-15.

According to filings in the case, the Thomases no longer live in Charlotte. Based on his Twitter accounts, Tyrus Thomas appears to be running a foundation under his name in his native Baton Rouge, La.

(Story updated at noon Dec. 24, 2013, to correct spelling of Jaime Thomas’ first name and to add that she was found not guilty of the DWI charge.)

Gordon: 704-358-5095

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