New York State's highest court on Monday ended a case in which a New York Yankees clubhouse worker had accused the team and some of its players of gay bashing and playing cruel practical jokes. The appeals court declined to hear an appeal by Paul Priore, who sued the Yankees in state supreme court in the Bronx in 1998 for $50 million. Priore contended that after he began working for the team as an assistant equipment manager in 1996, several players made antigay remarks and played cruel pranks on him because of his sexual orientation. He also claimed he was fired in August 1997 because he is HIV-positive.
Priore made $30 a day as a clubhouse worker, according to court papers. His suit named the Yankees, relief pitchers Mariano Rivera and Jeff Nelson, and former reliever Bob Wickman as defendants. Wickman is now with the Cleveland Indians. In May the state supreme court's appellate division unanimously reversed a lower court ruling that let most of Priore's claims survive for trial. The court on Monday gave no reason for deciding not to hear Priore's appeal. The Yankees had said Priore was fired largely because they believed he stole players' worn T-shirts, baseballs, and broken bats that were to be thrown away. The appellate division had ruled there was no evidence that team officials knew that Priore had the AIDS virus. Even the team dentist who had treated Priore didn't know he was HIV-positive, and Priore never complained to management about any harassment, the court stated. State law doesn't hold employers liable for bias by employees who act without the knowledge or consent of the employer.