Joe Schilling

Lawsuit Completely Dismissed!

Joe Schilling was previously granted immunity in a 2021 lawsuit, but now the entire case has been dismissed against the remaining Defendants.  In a previous post on April 27, 2023, we wrote about a lawsuit against Joe Schilling, a former professional mixed martial artist and Muay Thai world champion kickboxer we had the privilege of representing.  Mr. Schilling was out for a pleasant evening with a friend at B Square Burgers in Fort Lauderdale.  During the evening a man named Justin Balboa who was also a patron at B Square approach Mr. Schilling and caused problems.  Mr. Schilling went outside to smoke and while walking back to his seat, a drunken Balboa accidently bumped into Mr. Schilling.  Mr. Schilling gently moved Mr. Balboa out of his way and continued to his seat.  As he passed Balboa, Balboa apologized for bumping into Schilling.  Once Schilling was past Balboa, and Balboa realized who it was, he called out angrily to Schilling.  Schilling turned, approached Balboa and stood there, with his hands open at his side.  Balboa then began to throw a punch.  Schilling, with lightning fast hands, defended himself, throwing two fast strikes to Balboa’s head, knocking him out and walking away.

This was just the beginning of Schilling’s fight against Balboa.  Balboa filed a lawsuit against Joe Schilling and against the establishment B Square Burgers and their owners claiming greater than $100,000 in damages.  Balboa’s lawyers held a press conference in which they accused Schilling of being the aggressor and claiming Balboa was “viciously attacked, physically struck and assaulted” by Schilling, further claiming that Schilling was “uniquely skilled and trained to be brutally efficient and abnormally dangerous with his bare hands.”  Based on the press conference and video of the incident, many rushed to condemn Schilling.

Fortunately for Mr. Schilling, there was a video of the entire incident.  As the lawsuit progressed, Schilling received interrogatories (written questions he would ordinarily have been required to answer) requests to produce (another tool used to get information during a lawsuit which Mr. Schilling would ordinarily have been required to answer) and a subpoena for depositions.  In his defense, David Katz of Katz & Phillips, P.A. (The Firearm Firm) filed a Motion for Statutory Immunity and several Motions for protective orders.  Florida’s immunity statute in relevant part states:

(1) A person who uses or threatens to use force as permitted in s. 776.012, … is justified in such conduct and is immune from … civil action for the use or threatened use of such force by the person, personal representative, or heirs of the person against whom the force was used or threatened.
(3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).
Our theory was that Mr. Schilling should not be forced to participate in the lawsuit in anyway unless the Judge found he was not immune.  We sought protective orders so that Mr. Schilling would not have to participate in the discovery process, nor spend money on legal fees associated with such participation, until such a time as the Judge had ruled on Mr. Schilling’s Motion for Statutory Immunity.  The judge granted these protective orders finding that if Mr. Schilling was immune he would not need to participate in the lawsuit in anyway.  The only discovery obligations the judge made Mr. Schilling participate in were those necessary for the Immunity Motion to be heard.

The Immunity Motion was heard and granted.  In her order Judge  Fabienne E. Fahnestock found Schilling has acted in self-defense and was immune from lawsuit.  In her written order, the Judge wrote:“Schilling stepped outside to smoke. When he was returning to his table, Balboa, who was admittedly intoxicated at that point, stumbled into Schilling. The video… shows that Balboa apologized without looking at Schilling, and Schilling acknowledged the apology while continuing to walk back to his table. For some undetermined reason, Balboa calls out to Schilling. Schilling turns around and looks at Balboa in an unaggressive stance. Schilling’s feet were shoulder width apart and his hands were at his side. Balboa makes a feinting gesture towards Schilling. Schilling, who testified that he learned to anticipate punches as part of his training, instantly responded with two quick punches. Balboa fell to the floor unconscious.”

Judge Fahnestock went on to say: “The Court further finds that Schilling used only such force necessary to neutralize the threat, and is therefore entitled to immunity pursuant to §776.032, Florida Statute…  Defendant is entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by defendant in defense of this action pursuant to §776.032(3), Fla. Stat.”

Based on the Judge’s ruling, the attorney for B Squared Burgers filed a Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit against her client.  In her Motion she cited all the findings of fact from the Judge’s order granting statutory immunity to Schilling. The attorney then went on to argue, “Nothing that happened is evidence of a zone of risk to the Plaintiff.  There was no attack on the Plaintiff.  In fact, what happened is quite the contrary: Schilling reacted to the Plaintiff’s own actions.  Schilling did not instigate their interaction.  B Square Burgers had no duty to prevent this interaction as Plaintiff alleges.  Since the Court has already determined as a matter of law that Schilling’s use of force was reasonable and justified, this Court must also determine as a matter of law that Defendant B Square Burgers breached no duty to the Plaintiff.  There is no basis to find that B Square (could have or) should have prevented Schilling from punching Plaintiff in self-defense.  The Court determined that Schilling acted reasonably in doing so based on his reasonable belief that in that moment Plaintiff posed a threat of great bodily harm to himself.  To determine anything else now would be inconsistent with the Court’s prior ruling and inequitable to B Square Burgers.”

In response to the Motion for Summary Judgement, Balboa’s attorneys changed their theory of the case.  Although they did not amend the Complaint to include their new theory, Balboa’s attorneys argued that B Square Burger had a duty to protect Balboa from himself.  Their new argument was that it was foreseeable that a person as intoxicated as Balboa was a threat to themselves and that B Square had a duty to protect him from himself.  They argued that B Square Burger could have cut him off (which B Square’s Manager claims to have done) and thrown him out or sat him down and fed him so he would sober up.

In the hearing today, March 6, 2024, Judge Fahenstock ignored the new theory of liability and pointed out that a jury would only hear evidence that supported the theory of liability in the Complaint.  Judge Fahenstock ultimately decided that no reasonable jury could find for the Plaintiff, Justin Balboa, and ruled in the remaining Defendant, B Square Burgers favor.  Although no written order has yet been entered, the Judge made her ruling known on the record.  Once the written order is entered, the lawsuit will be fully and finally over.  Justin Balboa will have time to appeal the ruling, but that is unlikely.

This case should serve as a reminder that even when people have done nothing wrong, no one can keep a lawsuit from being filed.  There are plenty of Plaintiff’s attorneys out there that will file a lawsuit in hopes of a quick payout without fully analyzing the case and determining the merits prior to filing the suit.  From the beginning of this lawsuit the attorneys of Katz & Phillips, P.A. were confident in what the outcome would be.  With our experience in defending self-defense cases and our knowledge of Florida’s self-defense and immunity laws, we expected this outcome.  We are very happy that our client was dismissed from the lawsuit at the very early stage and that in the end justice has prevailed.  Justin Balboa was the sole cause of his own injuries and neither he nor his attorneys deserved to make any money off of the incident he caused.

When asked for a comment when his immunity motion was granted, Schilling said, ““I’m glad it’s finally over. For the last two years my name and character has been disparaged in the media, seem like everyone loves the narrative that a professional fighter just beat up some innocent person, which was [so] not the case. Most people told me to just settle it and pay him off as that would be easier. I don’t like [bullies] and I refuse to be bullied by anyone. The ambulance chasing crumb bum of a lawyer he hired threatened to ruin me financially and well the only person he financially ruined was his client. I just hope that all of the news outlets that were so quick to post click bait articles assassinating my character have the same energy now that the truth is out.”

In this matter the parties were represented by:

Joe Schilling – David Katz of Katz & Phillips, P.A. (The Firearm Firm)

B Square Burger Co., LLC d/b/a B Square Burgers – Allison Wasserman of The Law Office of David S. Lefton

Justin Balboa – Robert Solomon and Jaimie L. Quinn of Saban and Solomon.







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