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NBA Affiliate, Arena, EMS Settle Lawsuit Over On-Court Death

Aug. 15, 2022, 1:53 PM

The estate of Zeke Upshaw, a rising basketball star who died on the court while playing for an affiliate of the Detroit Pistons, has reached a settlement of wrongful death claims with the minor league team, DeltaPlex Arena, and emergency responders, according to federal court filings in Michigan.

Upshaw played for the Grand Rapids Drive, a G League team. He collapsed and died in March 2018 from cardiac arrest in the final minute of the team’s final game of the season.

The confidential settlement resolves claims with SSJ Group LLC, the owner and operator of the Drive; DeltaPlex Arena, which hosted the team’s home games; and Life EMS, doing business as EMS Ambulance, according to the motion filed Aug. 12 in the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The deal is subject to approval by Judge Paul L. Maloney.

  • Estate previously resolved claims against the NBA, Pistons, and team’s doctor for undisclosed amounts.
  • Court earlier ruled the University of Michigan Health System and the University of Michigan Board of Regents immune from suit.
  • Team is now an affiliate of the Denver Nuggets and was renamed the Grand Rapids Gold.
  • Hilliard Martinez Gonzales LLP and Conybeare Law Office PC represent Jewel Upshaw individually and as personal representative of the estate. Secrest Wardle represents SSJ Group. Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC represents DeltaPlex Arena. Blanco Wilczynski PLLC represents Life EMS.

The case is Upshaw v. SSJ Group LLC, W.D. Mich., No. 19-cv-00341, motion for leave to settle 8/12/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Brian Flood at bflood@bloomberglaw.com