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LAWSUITS BROUGHT AGAINST WWE BY FAMILIES OF THE LATE MATT 'DOINK' OSBOURNE AND NELSON 'BIG DADDY V' FRAZIER DISMISSED, ATTORNEY RESPONSIBLE FOR FILING SUITS AGAINST WWE WARNED BY THE COURT

By Mike Johnson on 2016-11-11 02:29:00

Lawsuits brought against World Wrestling Entertainment by the families of the late Matt "Doink the Clown" Osbourne and Nelson "Big Daddy V" Frazier Jr. were dismissed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in the United States District Court of Connecticut on 11/10, PWInsider.com has confirmed.

Cassandra Frazier, the widow of Nelson Frazier Jr. who portrayed several different characters for WWE, including Mabel, Viscera and Big Daddy V over several different runs between 1994 and 2008 filed her lawsuit against WWE on 2/18/15 in the Shelby County Circuit Court in Memphis, Tennessee.  The lawsuit, which listed Frazier Jr. and Cassandra as the plaintiffs, alleged that his passing was due to the cumulative effect of the punishment he took in the ring, including concussions and brain trauma over the 400+ matches he competed in for WWE.  Frazier passed away in 2014 with the official cause of his passing being listed as “Hypertensive cardiovascular disease” and “[m]orbid obesity, diabetes mellitus” as other significant contributing conditions."  The lawsuit was later transferred to Connecticut on the basis of WWE contracts stipulating that any legal issues be heard in that State's court due to WWE being headquartered there.

The family of the late Matt Osbourne, who was professionally known within the pro wrestling world as Matt Borne and was the original "Doink the Clown" for several years in the WWF, filed a lawsuit in Dallas, Texas on 6/26/15 against the company, alleging that brain injuries and other issues Osbourne suffered while working for WWE led to his June 2013 death.  The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Osbourne's children, alleged that “traumatic brain injuries” resulted in “depression and drug abuse, which ultimately resulted in [Osbourne's] untimely death."   Osbourne passed away due to an accidental painkiller overdose.   Like the Frazier lawsuit, it was also quickly transferred to the State of Connecticut.

In a ruling dated 11/10, Judge Bryant wrote that in the case of Frazier's lawsuit, there were allegations that his performing for WWE caused a myriad of health issues that contributed to his death from a heart attack, but given that no autopsy was performed, it was factually impossible to connect the two.  It was also alleged in the lawsuit that Frazier suffered from CTE, but Bryant noted that there was no official medical diagnosis of that post-mortem (something the filing failed to acknowledge), therefore it's impossible to officially state that as such on the record.    It is also noted that while there are allegations of Frazier's injuries, there is nothing in the lawsuit that proves the injuries are directly linked to his WWE performances, instead giving broad descriptions and claims that in every performance (even enhancement matches), Frazier suffered injuries.   The court also shot down the idea that had Frazier not been suffering from CTE, he would have survived his fatal heart attack, an argument that was likely a legal stretch begin with.

In the case of the lawsuit brought on behalf of Osbourne, Judge Bryant noted that Michelle James (the mother of Osbourne's children, who had never been married to him), who filed the lawsuit, did not have the right to do so as she was neither the executor or administrator of Osbourne's estate, something her attorneys did not even try to contest  when they had six months to have an estate established after that issue was brought before the court.    Bryant noted, "At no time did counsel for Plaintiffs invest the minimal effort and expense necessary to establish an estate and appoint an administrator in order to confer standing to bring the instant suit."  James' attorneys also failed to ask for an extension of time of file an amended lawsuit.    Judge Bryant stated that had James' attorneys found a plausible argument, she would have allowed for the suit to be re-filed down the line but since they had not, the suit was being dismissed with prejudice. 

It was also noted that there was nothing in Osbourne's autopsy records that showed a "relevant analysis" of his brain had been done. 

Bryant wrote, "It is impossible to plausibly allege, much less prove that either wrestler had CTE" and that there were no facts linking their deaths to CTE filed by their attorneys.

It was also noted that in the case of each lawsuit, neither filing could prove, under Connecticut law that WWE were directly responsible for Frazier and Osbourne's deaths via an "unbroken sequence of events."    Bryant commented that, "counsel for Plaintiffs could identify only four vague and conclusory assertions of ‘fact’ to link Frazier’s death with the more than one hundred pages of alleged wrongful conduct on the part of WWE detailed in the prolix Amended Complaint." and that the exact same verbiage was used to allege WWE was responsible for Osbourne's passing as well.

The ruling dismissing the lawsuits also noted that Judge Bryant was turning down WWE's motion to file sanctions against attorney Konstantine Kyros, who has spearheaded the concussion-related lawsuits against the company filed over the last several years.  While the court declined to file a sanction against Kyros, it did note:

The Court would be well within its broad discretion to sanction counsel for their failure to adhere to the Court’s instructions and trim the inflammatory content and unnecessary length of the carbon-copy complaints in these consolidated cases. Their failure to do so forced the Court to needlessly expend resources combing through hundreds of paragraphs of allegations, to find a single shred of relevant factual content indicating whether Plaintiffs asserted a plausible claim. In doing so, however, the Plaintiffs only further underlined for the Court the lack of substantive factual content actually contained in these complaints. Although it is perhaps a close question, the Court finds that no Rule 11 sanction is merited for counsel’s disregard of the Court’s comments at the June 8 conference.

Kyros’ false and misleading statements, identified by WWE above, together with other statements the Court has examined – including Kyros’ unprovable claim that deceased and, in at least one case, cremated former wrestlers had CTE “upon information and belief” – are highly unprofessional. These misleading, deceptive, and baseless allegations are precisely the types of statements that many state bar associations have targeted in promulgating rules of professional conduct which demand that admitted attorneys speak with candor to the trier of fact.

The Court admonishes Kyros and his co-counsel to adhere to the standards of professional conduct and to applicable rules and court orders lest they risk future sanction or referral to the Disciplinary Committee of this Court.

As previously reported on PWInsider.com, many of the lawsuits brought against WWE for allegedly failing to disclose information and caring about the well being of talents when it comes to concussion-related issues and CTE have for the most part been dismissed (although some of those dismissals are currently being appealed).  The lone exception, as of this writing, has been the lawsuit brought against the company by former WWE talent Vito LoGrasso and former developmental talent Evan Singleton.

In that case, many of the claims brought against WWE by LoGrasso and Singleton were dismissed for the same reasons as the other lawsuits but one  of the claims against WWE in this lawsuit was allowed to move forward.  Specifically allowed was their claim alleging that in 2005, WWE "became aware of and failed to disclose to its wrestlers information concerning a link between repeated head trauma and permanent degenerative neurological conditions."    Since WWE had created the Wellness Policy and LoGrasso and Singleton had wrestled during that period, the court ruled it was within reason that there was a possibility that WWE had a "greater knowledge" of the dangers via information cultivated via Wellness Policy data.  So the court allowed  that aspect of the case to move forward so the matter can be determined.

Still active against WWE as well is a class action lawsuit filed by dozens of pro wrestlers, some of whom were contracted to WWE and some of whom simply worked as underneath talent without a contract, alleging that WWE was directly responsible for their current health issues as well as challenging that professional wrestlers are classified as independent contractor, as opposed to employees.

 

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