Judge allows Ja Morant's lawyers to argue he acted in self-defense in lawsuit about fight with teen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Lawyers for Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant are allowed to argue that he was acting in self-defense as part of a lawsuit accusing him of assaulting a teenager during a pickup basketball game at the NBA star's house, a judge ruled Thursday.

Circuit Court Judge Carol Chumney set a Dec. 11 hearing where lawyers for Morant and 18-year-old Joshua Holloway will discuss whether Morant is immune from liability under Tennessee law for hitting Holloway during a game at the All-Star player’s Memphis-area home in July 2022.

Morant’s lawyers have acknowledged he punched Holloway one time after Holloway threw a basketball at Morant and the ball hit Morant in the chin. In a July 26 motion, the player’s lawyers said he should be immune from liability under the state’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people who feel threatened at their homes to act with force in certain situations.

The law is used in criminal cases, but Chumney's ruling clears the way for Morant's lawyers to apply it in the civil case and attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed.

Morant’s accuser was 17 when the lawsuit was filed. It accuses Morant and friend Davonte Pack of assault, reckless endangerment, abuse or neglect, and infliction of emotional distress. An amended complaint identified the plaintiff as Holloway.

Morant filed a countersuit accusing Holloway of slander, battery and assault. No criminal charges have been filed against Morant. Pack has been charged with misdemeanor assault, and a hearing is set for Nov. 21 in state criminal court.

The lawsuit has led to complicated legal arguments, including disagreement about whether the state’s “stand your ground” law can be used to support Morant.

Holloway’s lawyer, Rebecca Adelman, has argued that the self-defense claim under the state law can’t be a reason to dismiss the civil case, partly because there is no ongoing criminal investigation against Morant. She has argued that Holloway has a right to a jury trial, which would not take place if the judge finds that Morant is immune.

Adelman has said the self-defense and immunity arguments came too late in the process. At a July hearing, she called it a “Hail Mary of Hail Marys.”

Will Perry, Morant’s lawyer, has argued there are ways for the “stand your ground” law to apply in civil cases and that Morant is entitled to immunity. He has said the motion was timely because the trial is not scheduled until April 2024.

Lawyers for Morant and Holloway did not provide comment to reporters after the court hearing Thursday.

The NBA suspended Morant for the first 25 games this season after a video of him flashing a handgun was posted online. The video of Morant showing a gun while sitting in the passenger seat of a car was posted after he finished serving an eight-game suspension in March for a video in which he displayed a handgun in a Denver-area strip club.

Morant apologized for both videos.