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ATTORNEYS REPRESENTING FORMER WWF/WWE TALENTS IN CONCUSSION LAWSUIT ARGUE RECENT SERIES OF WRESTLER DEATHS PROVE DISCOVERY IN CASE SHOULD MOVE FORWARD, HEARING ON SANCTIONS OF ATTORNEYS SET FOR MARCH

By Mike Johnson on 2017-02-23 15:17:00

Attorneys representing dozens of former WWF/WWE contracted performers (as well as talents who worked for the company in the past on a per match basis) filed a motion with the United States District Court of Connecticut yesterday regarding the class action lawsuit regarding WWE's alleged handling of concussions and the classification of WWE performers as independent contractors instead of professional wrestlers, arguing that the court should not stop discovery when it comes to the case (as WWE recently requested) invoking a number of recent deaths, including Jimmy Snuka, Ivan Koloff and George Steele, as a primary reason to push forward.

 WWE attorneys have been attempting to stop discovery in case since the new class action suit was added to the existing lawsuits that were already ongoing, most recently filing a motion with their arguments to the court on 2/1.  The plaintiffs' attorneys have been arguing that the plaintiffs (who filed their lawsuit in July 2016) were not yet suing WWE when discovery was halted on the existing, related cases, therefore the new plaintiffs could not have had time for the court to properly hear their charges.

In the filing yesterday, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued, "The epidemic that is killing professional wrestlers and the Plaintiffs in this case necessitate a full and robust discovery to ensure that these wrestlers are given the relief they need before more wrestlers die from the complications of professional wrestling. Discovery should not be stayed as it is only further wasting precious time and rewarding the Defendants abusive, delaying tactics."

The motion listed the recent deaths of WWE Hall of Famers George Steele and Jimmy Snuka (described as passing away from "Encephalopathy Unspecified, Cerebral Atherosclerosis, and Dementia with Behavioral Disorder”) as well as the passings of Chavo Guerrero Sr., Ivan Koloff, Nicole Bass, and Rex King as examples of professional wrestlers who continue to pass away as a result of WWE's alleged actions.

"While Plaintiffs are dying from their in-ring injuries and long-term neurological conditions," the motion argued, "the Defendants seek to delay simple discovery to prevent the public and its former wrestlers from finally seeing the decades of fraudulent conduct that has resulted in severe injuries for its employees."

The motion points out that the discovery needs to be done as they intend to hold up WWE's claims in their contracts and via public statement that they cover the medical costs of talents' in-ring injuries and medical care to scrutiny, claiming that WWE's statements "inherently covers the latent and long-lasting effects of repeated in-ring head trauma."   So, the argument is that WWE should be paying for the care of anyone who is hurting today based on promises that they would take care of in-ring injuries.

It should be noted that today WWE routinely pays for surgeries and physical therapy related to injuries that occur to talent in their ring, but obviously did not always do so dating back to the earliest incarnation of WWWF.    WWE today also requires talents to carry their own medical insurance before they will sign them to contract and routinely oversees talent to make sure the insurance has remained current.

The motion notes that the case is not just about CTE "but rather a much broader series of claims relating to WWE’s violation of numerous common law, contractual and statutory rights of the Plaintiffs resulting in financial as well as physical injury."

The motion also noted that they wish to use the IRS test to show that WWE's classification of their talent as independent contractors would actually instead prove they should be classified as employees.

In the motion, it was argued that WWE did not meet the burden of legal proof to show that discovery in the case should be halted and are simply rearguing their position from previously filed motions to dismiss the case, which it was argued, has yet to show is likely to succeed before the court.  The argument being made is also that the court cannot rule the case should be dismissed without hearing the plaintiff's side and they cannot properly provide their side without completing discovery. 

The motion also argued that WWE failed to prove that the level of discovery necessary would be burdensome to them, since they have yet to receive any specific discovery requests.  The plaintiffs asked that the court order WWE to work with them on discovery when it comes to the lawsuit that was filed in July 2016.

Meanwhile, a hearing is set for 3/2 in Hartford, CT at 10:30 AM before Judge Robert A. Richardson regarding the sanctions Vince McMahon and WWE have requested the United States District Court of Connecticut take against attorneys Konstantine Kyros, Brenden Leydon, S. James Boumil, Anthony Norris, Erica C. Mirabella, and R. Christopher Gilreath.   Back in November 2016, WWE claimed that the attorneys had plagiarized some of the allegations against WWE from a NFL-concussion lawsuit, that the most recently amended complaint against the company included facts that had 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 claims and studies that several football players had 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 hearing will revolve around what sanctions, if any, the court will decide to take.

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