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WWE CONCUSSION LAWSUIT UPDATE: PLAINTIFFS ORDERED TO GET THEIR CLAIMS IN ORDER (& UNDER OATH) OR ELSE

By Mike Johnson on 2017-09-29 17:49:00

Judge Vanessa L. Bryant of the United States District Court of Connecticut issued a major ruling today in the ongoing lawsuits that have been brought against World Wrestling Entertainment over the last several years by dozens of former WWWF/ WWF/WWE performers regarding WWE's alleged lack of protection when it came to performers in regard to their health, specifically concussions, CTE and other head-trauma related injuries.

In her 22 page ruling, Judge Bryant, responding to WWE requests to dismiss the existing lawsuits against them and to rule in favor of WWE in regard to their claims that an attempt by attorney Konstantine Kyros to file similar lawsuits against the company for Blackjack Mulligan, Dynamite Kid, Ivan Koloff and Koko B. Ware are time-barred, lofficially put the clients represented by Kyros (who has been personally spear-heading the legal action against WWE) in a race against the clock, giving them 35 days to file an amended pleading under the threat that failure to do so (and/or failure to adhere to the court's instructions) will lead to a WWE victory in court.

The ruling was not kind to Kyros, noting that despite previous instructions from the court, the Plaintiffs have "now filed a 335 page complaint with 805 paragraphs that includes numerous allegations that a reasonable attorney would know are inaccurate, irrelevant, or frivolous" including filing a 2015 study on CTE to the court (despite the fact that none of Kyros' clients would have been performing during that time period), quoting a book from a wrestler (I believe Chris Nowinski) who is not party to the case and bringing up allegations that a female performer had been told "not to report a sexual assault she endured while on a WWE tour despite the fact that this has no relevance to her claims about neurological injuries or the enforceability of her booking contract", among other instances. 

The court also singled out that Kyros had used a fictional post-concussion storyline (Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart from 1996) as proof that WWE was aware of the dangers of concussions and CTE (which of course, had not been discovered until a decade later.)   

WWE had previously pushed for sanctions against Kyros and other attorneys representing the Plaintiffs, claiming 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 court specifically noted that despite having a paragraph about each Plaintiff in the complaint, the attorneys have failed to specify exactly what claims each plaintiff is individually bringing against WWE as well as how or why they are bringing them against the company.  

In today's ruling, Judge Bryant ruled that the existing pleading, "remains unnecessarily and extremely long, with an overwhelming number of irrelevant allegations. Parsing each of the Laurinaitis Plaintiffs’ asserted claims to figure out exactly which claims might be legally and factually supportable would be both a waste of judicial resources. It would also be unduly prejudicial to the WWE and McMahon, because the precise contours of the Laurinaitis Plaintiffs’ claims are so amorphous that the WWE and McMahon would be at a loss to determine how to defend against them."

Judge Bryan ordered that, "in the interests of justice, fairness to WWE and McMahon, the efficient and effective management of the Court’s docket, in an abundance of deference to the Windham Defendants and Laurinaitis Plaintiffs in their heretofore unsuccessful efforts to file pleadings in conformity with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and finally, to assure disposition of this case on the merits" that the Plaintiffs would have 35 days to file an amended pleading that would comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure" explaining the "factual basis" of each Plaintiffs' claims or defenses "clearly and concisely."

The court also ordered that within 35 days, that each of the Plaintiffs shall submit for affidavits that are filmed on camera where they are sworn in, under penalty of perjury and provide the facts regarding their "knowledge" that forms the basis of each their claims, including the dates they wrestled for WWE or any affiliates, including the first and last date with the company, if they wrestled for more than one "person or entity" (meaning promoter or company, which would certainly describe the vast majority of every professional wrestler ever), whether they ever signed "any agreement or other document in connection with their engagement to wrestle by or for WWE or any of its agents or affiliates", "whether they were ever or are now in possession of any document relating to their engagement to wrestle by or for WWE or any of its agents or affiliates, including without limitation W-4s, W-2s or 1099s."

The court also specifically requested that each Plaintiff be asked what specific WWE employees or agents said or did that forms the basis of each and every one of the claims against WWE including a reference to the specific paragraph of the complaint,  when and where such act occurred or such statement was made, the identities of any and all the persons present at the time of the act or statement, and "any and all other facts personally known to the affiant that form the basis of their belief that WWE or any or its agents or affiliates knew or should have known that wrestling caused any traumatic brain injuries, including CTE.

Judge Bryant noted, "The Court assumes that Attorney Kyros had a good faith belief that the allegations in the Laurinaitis complaint and Windham answer were true based on interviews with his clients, in which each revealed information about his or her relationship with WWE. Counsel should therefore have no difficulty producing these affidavits within 35 days."

Should the Plaintiffs fail to do comply, Judge Bryant warned, she would then dismiss the lawsuits against WWE with prejudice (which would prevent any of the current plaintiffs from filing new lawsuits), potentially sanction Kyros (including ruling that the Plaintiffs' side could be responsible for attorney's fees) and rule in WWE's favor on the lawsuit they have filed to stop Dynamite Kid and that group from bringing action against WWE.

So, the impetus is now on Kyros and his clients to insure that the lawsuit continues with the amended pleading.  If they fail to do (or don't do so to the court's liking), this legal chapter for WWE could be closed.  Several of the clients Kyros represents across the cases, including Jimmy Snuka, Blackjack Mulligan and Ivan Koloff, have passed away since the lawsuits were filed.

So, by November, we will either have a much clearer picture or each plaintiff's claims against WWE or we will be looking at the end of the case.

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