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[UPDATED] WWE FIRES BACK AT CONCUSSION LAWSUIT IN LATEST MOTION, RESPONDS TO ALLEGATIONS BROUGHT AGAINST THEM BY ASHLEY MASSARO, EXPLAINS WHY THEY ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR CLAIMS MADE AGAINST WCW & ECW, POINTS OUT SOME SUING ARE STILL WRESTLING, DETAILS ON NEW SANCTIONS REQUESTED AGAINST ATTORNEYS RESPONSIBLE FOR LAWSUITS & MORE

By Mike Johnson on 2016-12-28 16:02:00

WWE attorneys filed a motion on 12/23 once again seeking the dismissal of the latest lawsuit filed against the company by dozens of wrestlers, some whom were contracted by WWF/WWE and some who worked on a per match basis as well as requesting the United States District Court of Connecticut sanction attorneys Konstantine Kyros, Brenden Leydon, S. James Boumil, Anthony Norris, Erica C. Mirabella, and R. Christopher Gilreath.  That motion was followed by one filed personally by Vince McMahon seeking the same.

Back in November, WWE claimed that the attorneys had plagiarized some of the allegations against the company from a NFL-concussion lawsuit, that the most recently amended complaint against the company includes facts that have already been proven false over the course of discovery, that the complaint falsely claimed that WWE was aware of the effects of concussion-related disease such as CTE for decades, that WWE and Dr. Joseph Maroon (who oversees the Wellness Policy) have shot down claim and studies that several football players have been diagnosed with CTE, that WWE requested to examine the results and research on Chris Benoit's brain, that WWE hid their knowledge of the dangers of CTE and other concussive effects from their performers, and dozens of other points that WWE took issue with, ranging from how pro wrestling was presented and scripted to how long Maroon had been working with the company. 

The 12/23 motion to dismiss noted that the Amended complaint from November filed against WWE alleges, incorrectly, that "all of the deceased wrestlers who have been studied to date had CTE" and that "several hundred wrestlers died from Alzheimer’s or dementia related injuries" according to the Cauliflower Alley Club's website and "that WWE knew that wrestlers received repetitive head trauma that dramatically increased their risks of developing neurological disorders because of its relationship to the CAC."

The motion also seeks to shoot down the claims that WWE would be legally responsible and obligated to former talents of World Championship Wrestling (WCW, which WWE purchased in March 2001) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW, which WWE purchased the assets and right to via the bankruptcy proceedings of ECW parent company HHG, Inc., also in 2001).    

On the WCW end, WWE claims, "The Amended Complaint falsely alleges that WWE had a continuity of ownership, management, employees, and physical location with both WCW and ECW. It also falsely alleges that Diana Myers, Aaron Blitzstein, Rob Garner, and Steve Barrett, all former WCW employees, were subsequently employed by WWE."  They are also arguing that they did not take over WCW operations from the WCW parent company, Universal Wrestling Corp, because that corporate entity still exists (in name, obviously).

On the ECW end, WWE's motion stated that claims related to ECW should be dismissed because they are, "legally frivolous because WWE acquired certain assets of ECW free and clear of all claims pursuant to an order of a federal Bankruptcy Court, because WWE did not acquire or assume any liability to Plaintiffs, and because Plaintiffs cannot plead any exception to the general rule that a corporation that merely purchases certain assets of another corporation is not liable for the seller’s liabilities."

On the claims made by former WWE Diva Ashley Massaro upon her joining the lawsuit several months back, WWE stated, "The Amended Complaint falsely alleges that WWE attempted to persuade Plaintiff Ashley Massaro not to report an allegation of sexual assault on a military base in Kuwait to the appropriate authorities. This baseless and inflammatory allegation is wholly unrelated to the claims in this case and was presented for the improper purpose of generating negative publicity against WWE in violation of this Court’s prior admonitions."

Back in November, Massaro joined the lawsuit.  At the time, the amended complaint featured allegations that she was sexually assaulted during a trip overseas for a 2006 "Tribute to the Troops" event in Kuwait and that the company, upon learning of the assault, according to the article, met with Massaro "to apologize for their negligence, but [they] persuaded her that it would be best not to report it to appropriate authorities.’’

In regard to the estates of Brian "Axl Rotten" Knighton and John "Balls Mahoney" Rechner bringing claims against WWE, WWE noted, "As in the prior cases, Plaintiffs do not and cannot plausibly plead any facts establishing a causal relationship between WWE’s conduct and the death of Jonathan Rechner from a heart attack and the death of Brian Knighton from an accidental drug overdose many years after they last performed for WWE.   Plaintiffs’ allegations are based merely on rank speculation in violation of the Court’s prior admonitions." 

WWE also sought to dismiss any claims against them by Rechner's estate noting that the current case is "is legally frivolous because Gayle Schecter is not the executor or administrator of his estate and therefore lacks standing to  assert such a claim. This Court has previously dismissed a wrongful death claim [Note from Mike: The one brought by Matt "Doink" Osbourne's girlfriend and mother of his children.] asserted by Plaintiffs’ counsel for the same reason."  Schechter is the long-time girlfriend of Rechner and the mother of his son.

WWE also stated that since several of the Plaintiffs "despite their claims of traumatic brain injuries from wrestling and knowledge of the reported long-term risks of such injuries", still currently for professional wrestling groups, their claims should be dismissed, specifically naming Carlene Moore-Begnaud (Jazz), Rodney "Mack" Begnaud, Terry Brunk (Sabu), Barry Darsow (Demolition Smash aka Repo Man), Bill Eadie, Sylvain Grenier, Chavo Guerrero Sr., Salvador Guerrero IV (Chavo Guerrero Jr.), Michael Halac (Mantaur), Earl Hebner, Jon Heidenreich, Marty Jannetty, Mark Jindrak, Troy Martin (Shane Douglas), Charles Bernard Scaggs (2 Cold Scorpio), Tracy Smothers, Terry Szopinksi (The Warlord), and Sione Havea Vailahi (The Barbarian)*

It also noted that in the case of the following plaintiffs - Caroline Moore-Begnaud (Jazz), Rodney "Mack" Begnaud, Mark Canterbury (Henry Godwin), Bryan Emmett Clark Jr. (Adam Bomb aka Wrath), Marc Copani (Muhammad Hassan), Michael Enos, Bill Eadie (Demolition Ax/Masked Superstar), Perry Saturn, Anthony Norris (Ahmed Johnson), Marty Jannetty, John Nord (Bezerker), Troy Martin (Shane Douglas), James "Jimmy" Snuka-Reiher, Terry Szopinski (The Warlord), Mark Jindrak,  Michael Halac (Mantaur), James Harrell (Boris Zukov), Rick Jones, and James "Kamala" Harris - they are each legally barred from pursuing WWE due to contractual agreements they made with the company.

*9 PM EST Correction: Please note that the talent lists of the two previous paragraphs had initially been reversed.  My apologies for the error.

It should be noted there were a number of documents in relation to the 12/23 motion that were sealed by the court.

WWE's attorneys also fired back against the RICO claim brought against Vince McMahon in the most recent Amended Complaint, stating that claim against McMahon "is legally frivolous because it is predicated on baseless claims of mail and wire fraud in the presentation of Booking Contracts to Plaintiffs that expressly set forth their agreement to be classified and treated as independent contractors and fails to allege that McMahon made any false statements of fact to Plaintiffs with the contemporaneous intent to defraud them." 

The filing also noted that the same allegations were "copied and repeated" from a previously dismissed lawsuit filed by Scott "Raven" Levy and others challenging the independent contractor classification of WWE performers.  WWE noted there was no factual basis for those claims since talents willingly signed their independent contractor agreements with the company.

WWE also claimed that the latest amended complaint also, among other charges, falsely alleges that they assumed a duty to provide health and safety information to its wrestlers as early as 1963 based on allegations of actions that do not date back to 1963, that it falsely alleges that WWE undertook a duty to train wrestlers from the outset of their careers based on allegations that wrestlers are trained in facilities where WWE employees and trainers work and advise wrestlers on how to conduct maneuvers [which obviously did not happen before the WWE Performance Center), that the Amended Complaint asserts numerous claims that are not warranted by existing law and are legally frivolous, and that the Complaint does not and cannot plead the facts necessary to support the elements of any of the claims asserted.

 It was noted that a number of previous claims brought against WWE for similar allegations had been dismissed already by the court as well stating that "accounting and unjust enrichment claims" brought against the company "are legally frivolous because Plaintiffs have no basis to claim any copyright interest in WWE’s copyrighted works and because their claims are preempted by federal copyright law."

It was also noted that claims that WWE would be responsible for covering talents' medical care under the Family Medical Leave Act had "no factual or legal basis", specifically because "at least 17" of the plaintiffs had ceased performing for WWE before "before the FMLA even became effective."

The request for sanctioning was made for, the attorneys, allegedly, "because they have disregarded the repeated admonitions of this Court and have continued to make patently false allegations, assert frivolous legal claims, and maintain this action in bad faith and for improper purposes." 

WWE also stated that the latest amended complaint, "was filed in bad faith and for the improper purposes of needlessly increasing the costs of the litigation, soliciting additional plaintiffs to sue Defendants, and attempting to exert pressure on Defendants as part of a negative media campaign."

WWE also noted, "The Amended Complaint is the thirteenth complaint or amended complaint filed against WWE by Attorney Kyros in the past two years. The Court has already dismissed four of the prior lawsuits brought by Attorney Kyros, including two putative class actions and two wrongful death actions.   The Court also has repeatedly admonished Attorney Kyros on multiple occasions for filing excessively lengthy complaints, making knowingly false and deliberately misleading statements, asserting completely irrelevant and inflammatory allegations, repeatedly misrepresenting evidence, pursuing baseless claims as part of a media campaign to pressure the Defendants with negative public relations, and engaging in highly unprofessional and vexatious conduct. This Court also has admonished Attorney Kyros and his co-counsel to adhere to the standards of professional conduct and applicable rules and court orders or risk future sanctions or referral to the Disciplinary Committee of this Court."

There is a case conference scheduled for 1/24/2017 at 10:30 AM in regard to the case.  Interestingly, it is listed as being held before Judge Robert A. Richardson, a federal magistrate not Judge Vanessa L. Bryant, who has been overseeing the lawsuit since it began.  Richardson will be hearing arguments on the sanctions WWE has requested the court take regarding Kyros and the other attorneys' alleged actions.

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