Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law School professor emeritus known as a zealous civil liberties advocate, is suing TD Garden nearly three years after a slip and fall in an arena bathroom during a Celtics game that he blamed on a depleted supply of paper towels near the sinks.
"The bathroom at this time — and plaintiff believes for at least 60 minutes before his entry into the restroom — had no paper towels to allow male patrons to dry their hands post washing of them," according to a complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Friday. "This dangerous condition allowed water from the recently washed hands of each of the myriad bathroom users to drip or be 'shaken' onto the floor, negligently creating a hazardous situation for all users."
A spokeswoman for the Garden declined to comment on the lawsuit.
In a brief phone interview Tuesday, Dershowitz, a Celtics season-ticket holder since 1965, said he did not want to sue the Garden. But with no agreement in place and a three-year statute of limitations looming, he felt he had no choice. Dershowitz said that he was unsure how negotiations with the Garden had gone before the filing, as he entrusted the case to attorney Alex MacDonald, one of his former students.
MacDonald could not be reached for comment.
Dershowitz, 76, claims in court documents that he "violently slipped, causing him to fall upward and then hard upon the tile floor and severely twisting his right knee and leg, landing on his back."
Even with an insurance payout, his share of the ensuing medical bills totaled $5,984.22, according to the complaint, including $1,150 for an ambulance ride from the Garden to Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also seeking an unspecified amount as compensation for "economic and intangible damages."
Dershowitz did not call for an ambulance right away, however. Though he "could not walk unaided due to the pain and injury to his knee," Dershowitz "painfully and carefully returned to his seat, using the handrails for assistance," to catch the fourth quarter of a playoff game between the Celtics and the Miami Heat.
"I usually don't go to the bathroom during the fourth quarter," he noted in his interview with the Globe, "but I'm getting a little older, and the bladder is a little more active these days."
Dershowitz — a noted sports fan with a pastrami sandwich, "The Dersh," named in his honor at the Bleacher Bar outside of Fenway Park — saw an exciting finish. The Celtics fended off a late charge by the Heat to win Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, 101-91. Kevin Garnett, who also suffered a memorably hard fall in the game, led the way, with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Dershowitz is a prominent legal commentator sought by news outlets for his analysis of civil liberties cases, such as the one brought last month by the Maryland state attorney against six Baltimore police officers implicated in the death of Freddie Gray.
In one of his early high-profile cases, in 1984, Dershowitz successfully appealed the conviction of the British socialite Claus von Bulow for the attempted murder of his wife. Dershowitz's book about the case became the 1990 movie "Reversal of Fortune," starring Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons.
Dershowitz also represented boxer Mike Tyson in his 1993 appeal of a rape conviction, and was part of O.J. Simpson's defense team during the former football star's 1995 murder trial, which ended with an acquittal. Dershowitz released a book about the Simpson case in 1996, one of 30 he has authored on various subjects.
Several of his writings address longstanding tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, and he has been honored by the Anti-Defamation League for civil rights advocacy.
A slip-and-fall lawsuit may seem small, compared with Dershowitz's other causes, but he says the effects of his bathroom wipeout linger to this day.
According to the complaint, he remains in physical therapy long after being diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral ligament. He no longer requires a knee brace or a crutch to get around, as he did for "many months" following the spill, but continues to experience pain that hampers his mobility and keeps him awake at night.
He may need surgery in the future, the complaint states.
"This is small — for everybody but me," Dershowitz said. "When you hurt your knee, you feel it every day."