In a significant legal victory, former professional mixed martial artist and Muay Thai world champion kickboxer Joe Schilling has been found not guilty in a 2021 bar fight. A Florida court determined that Schilling acted in lawful self-defense and is immune from a lawsuit, stemming from allegations of battery and negligence. The ruling, handed down by Broward County Circuit Court Judge Fabienne E. Fahnestock, brings an end to a contentious legal battle that has been ongoing for nearly two years.
Schilling Acted in Self-Defense Florida Judge Rules
In June 2021, Schilling was involved in an altercation with Justin Balboa at a bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The incident, which was caught on video, showed Balboa initiating the confrontation with Schilling, who defended himself with two quick punches, rendering Balboa unconscious. Following the incident, Balboa filed a lawsuit against Schilling, claiming he was “viciously attacked, physically struck and assaulted,” and sought damages up to $30,000.
Schilling contested the allegations and filed for immunity under Florida law. Florida’s self-defense statutes protect individuals who lawfully defend themselves from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits. If a defendant is found immune, the plaintiff is liable for the defendant’s attorney’s fees and costs.
The ruling found that Schilling had acted in lawful self-defense and was entitled to immunity under Florida law. In the judge’s order, she detailed the events leading up to the incident, noting that Balboa was intoxicated and had stumbled into Schilling. Schilling had acknowledged Balboa’s apology but was later called out by Balboa, prompting him to turn around.
Kickboxing Legend Joe Schilling Eliminates an Out of Control Dude at the Bar… Today he was found Not Guilty under Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Laws… pic.twitter.com/HqX7Xkgula
— Fight Haven (@FightHaven) April 27, 2023
Schilling Glad Lawsuit is “Finally Over”
Balboa’s feinting gesture towards Schilling led the former MMA fighter to believe he was about to be punched. Schilling, who testified that he had been trained to anticipate punches, instantly responded with two quick punches. Judge Fahnestock determined that Schilling had used “only such force necessary to neutralize the threat” and awarded him immunity.
David Katz, Schilling’s attorney, celebrated the ruling as a “complete and total victory” for his client. In a statement, Katz warned those looking to make a quick buck by causing problems and claiming damages, emphasizing that Florida law protects those forced to protect themselves and their loved ones. He also noted that Balboa now stands liable for all of Schilling’s costs and fees for defending the lawsuit.
Following the ruling, Schilling took to Instagram to share his relief, stating that he was “glad it’s finally over.” He expressed frustration over how his name and character had been disparaged in the media and by Balboa’s attorneys. Schilling reiterated that he had refused to be bullied and hoped that news outlets would cover the truth of the situation with the same energy as the initial accusations.
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