A state appeals court on Thursday dismissed a $50 million lawsuit filed by a former New York Yankees clubhouse worker who claimed that he had been the target of gay-bashing by players and was fired because he has the AIDS virus. The 5-0 decision by the state supreme court's appellate division reversed a lower court ruling that had allowed Paul Priore's case to proceed to trial, with most of his claims intact. Priore, 39, sued the Yankees in state supreme court in the Bronx in 1998, alleging that after he began working for the team in 1996, several players made antigay comments to him and played cruel pranks on him because of his sexual orientation. The lawsuit named the Yankees, relief pitchers Mariano Rivera and Jeff Nelson, and former relief pitcher Bob Wickman as defendants; Wickman now plays for the Cleveland Indians.
Priore, who was a $30-a-day assistant equipment manager, also claimed that team officials fired him, on August 1, 1997, after learning that he is HIV-positive, a condition Priore maintains had no effect on his ability to perform his duties. The Yankees countered that Priore was fired largely because they considered him a thief. Team officials said he had stolen T-shirts (of the type worn only by players), baseballs, and broken bats that were to be disposed of.