The parking valet on the receiving end of a humiliating slap by LeBron James’ mom fired back this week in a lawsuit alleging he suffered emotional distress, humiliation, mental anguish, expense of medical care and treatment, the loss of ability to earn money and the loss of capacity for enjoyment of life.
Rockfeller Sorel hired lawyer Angela Cohn, who filed the suit Tuesday in Miami-Dade court. A day later, a grainy video appeared on gossip website TMZ showing the altercation at the posh Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel, the infamous slap and a tumbling Gloria Marie James, who held on to an oversized purse but got up swinging.In the suit, Sorel asks for damages of more than $15,000 for negligence, assault and battery. It says that James, 43, “verbally abused and threatened” Sorel, “creating a well founded fear in the Plaintiff that violence was imminent.”In an interview Wednesday, Sorel’s lawyer said the “verbal abuse” included a profanity-filled tirade that included personal attacks, and a racial obscenity, calling calling Sorel, “you f—ing n—er.” The suit goes on to say that “The losses are either permanent or continuing and Plaintiff with suffer the losses in the future.”“All he was doing was his job,’’ Cohn said. “He did not know who she was, and he did not ask for this to happen.” Sorel, Cohn added, hasn’t returned to his job as a parking valet at the Fontainebleau and “his future is unclear there.”Lawyers for Gloria James responded with a statement.“On behalf of Ms. Gloria James, we do not comment on pending legal matters,’’ said attorneys Christopher G. Lyons and Sandy Becher. “Therefore, we will not have any comment regarding the civil lawsuit, which was filed yesterday.” .While the lawsuit portrays Sorel as the victim, the blurred black-and-white video show a less obvious set of circumstances.The video showed Gloria James inches away from Sorel when her left hand makes contact with his right cheek. But Sorel doesn’t appear to be a timid, passive victim. In the video, he takes what look like several threatening steps toward Gloria James, getting very close. James appears to slap him and he appears to push her back. She tumbles to the ground, rolling over, but still holding on to her purse. A white column blocks the view, making it difficult to tell if Sorel pushes her or if she tripped. Cohn said it was her momentum that caused her to fall.Bystanders help James up. She is relentless. She attempts one last go at Sorel. Bystanders restrain her. And an unidentified person also attempts to restrain Sorel from behind. He appears to use his arm to push the person away.Cohn points out that part of the view is blocked by the column and that multiple people told police that Gloria James was the aggressor. Any action Sorel took, she said, was to defend himself. Both Miami Beach police and the Fontainebleau issued statements Wednesday saying they did not release the video. The confrontation unfolded shortly before 5 a.m. April 7. When police arrived, they found an intoxicated Gloria James and several witnesses whom, they said, confirmed that the slap happened. Sorel told police that he waited with the SUV for 30 minutes while James chatted with friends. He gave the key to the cashier and James reportedly began yelling, “where are my f—ing keys?” and other profanities. In the initial police report and in an interview with Sorel, there was no mention of racial profanities.James and her unidentified companion told police she and the valet had a “minor verbal altercation” and then they “got up on each other’s faces.”Police arrest Gloria James on charges of battery and public intoxication. She was released James to Miami Heat executive Steve Stowe with a promise to appear.Miami Herald writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.