A University of Colorado student who was punched out by CU linebacker Michael Sipili three years ago has won a $160,000 civil judgement against the football player and a former teammate.
A seven-person jury agreed to award John Antrim $100,000 for economic damages, $25,000 for non-economic damages and $35,000 for physical impairment and disfigurement related to the attack, which forced him to have three metal plates inserted into his face. In June 2008, Antrim sued both Sipili and former Buffs defensive lineman Christopher Perri for their alleged roles in the attack.
Jurors late Friday found Sipili liable on negligence and battery, and they found Perri liable on negligence and extreme and outrageous conduct, said attorney Ross Buchanan, who represented Antrim in the suit. They did not find Sipili liable for extreme and outrageous conduct.
According to Antrim’s lawsuit, the then-22-year-old was walking with friends on University Hill early June 16, 2007, when Perri got into an argument with a female friend in Antrim’s group and knocked her to the ground. In the fight that ensued, Antrim said he was knocked over and beaten repeatedly by Sipili.
In distributing the blame for the fight and resulting injuries, jurors found Sipili was 42 percent at fault, Perri was 37 percent at fault, Antrim was 6 percent at fault, and two other people, who were not included in the lawsuit, were found to be 8 percent and 7 percent at fault. That means Sipili owes $67,200, while Perri owes $59,200.
“From the plaintiff’s standpoint, we were gratified that the jury concluded that 79 percent of the fault was that of the defendants,” Buchanan said. “But we were disappointed in the damage award.”
Buchanan said he would have preferred that the jury put more of the blame on Perri, accused of instigating the fight.
“But it’s difficult to convince someone that the person who throws the punch is less liable than the person who started the fight,” he said.
Sipili, who is from Hawaii and will be a senior at CU this fall, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2007 for his involvement in the attack and was sentenced to four days on a Boulder County Jail work crew, 80 hours of community service and two years of probation. He also was suspended from both the university and the football team in 2007, but was reinstated to the roster in 2008.
Perri, who wasn’t charged with a crime in connection with the fight, voluntarily left the team after the incident.
Even though Antrim won damages, his attorney said he can only collect damages from Perri at this point because Sipili has no assets and no insurance. If Sipili gets insurance or makes more money, Buchanan said, Antrim could register the judgement and collect later.
Sipili’s attorney, Lou Rubino, said his client took responsibility for his actions, and was eager to get this behind him and move on.
Perri’s attorney, Frank Patterson, said everyone has a different perspective on what happened.
“We think our perspective is just as legitimate as their perspective,” he said. “A jury trial is an opportunity for everyone to put their personal perspectives out there for the jury to assess whether they agree or not.”