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WWE FILES HUGE MOTION IN ATTEMPT TO END LAWSUIT BROUGHT AGAINST THEM BY VITO LOGRASSO AND FORMER DEVELOPMENTAL TALENT EVAN SINGLETON REGARDING CONCUSSIONS

By Mike Johnson on 2017-04-19 12:04:00

World Wrestling Entertainment filed a motion seeking a summary judgment that would end the lawsuit brought against them by former WWE performer Vito LoGrasso and former WWE developmental talent Evan Singleton on 4/17 in the United States District Court of Connecticut.

To review, previous lawsuits against WWE involving Billy Jack Haynes, Ryan Sakoda, Russ McCullough and Matthew "Luther Reigns" Wiese have all been dismissed (all are currently appealing that decision) while a lawsuit brought by Vito LoGrasso and Evan Singleton saw all of their claims against WWE tossed from court, with the exception of one claim - one 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" - was allowed to move forward.      Since WWE had created it's Wellness Policy in 2005 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 has allowed that aspect of the case to move forward so the matter can be determined, although depositions involving the Plaintiffs in that case have revealed holes in those claims.

In the motion that was filed on 4/17, WWE stated that the plaintiffs "never had any factual basis to allege that WWE was aware in 2005 of a link between repeated head trauma and permanent degenerative conditions, and no basis to allege fraud."  

WWE stated that the fraud charge brought in the lawsuit was based on allegations stated in a Mayo Clinic article that actually said nothing regarding CTE or degenerative conditions being caused by repetitive head trauma.   WWE also noted that the Plaintiffs did not ask one WWE witness on the record whether they were even aware that such the article even existed.

WWE's motion also noted, "Plaintiffs’ counsel also knew, yet still refused to accept, that the first report of a permanent degenerative disease being associated with head trauma in a professional wrestler was not until September 2007 when CTE findings in the case of Chris Benoit were widely publicized."

Once WWE's attorneys had exposed that the article could not support the basis of the fraud allegations, they noted that the Plaintiffs shifted those claims. "...theory #2 was that WWE had “knowledge, concern, and suspicion about concussions no later than 2005 when Dr. Omalu published his findings regarding CTE.”   That article was specifically about a football player, not a pro wrestler, so WWE argued that it could not be the basis of a fraud case against them.

WWE's motion featured some material that was redacted, but WWE then claimed that Plaintiff's shifted their fraud theory again, claiming now that that "WWE knew about research conducted by Christopher Nowinski for his book, Head Games, published in September 2006", despite the fact that the judge presiding over the case had "t had already rejected the Plaintiffs’ argument that Mr. Nowinski had any information relevant to the discovery order on two different occasions."

So, WWE is saying that since there has been no evidence to support a fraud charge and all attempts at claiming one have been proven to be false, that claim should be dropped.

WWE's filing also featured an excerpt from their deposition of LoGrasso, where he denied on record that the company had defrauded him, as he was alleging in the lawsuit:

Do you contend that people at WWE were engaged in trying to
defraud you?

A. I didn't come out and say that they tried to defraud me . . .
***
Q. Who at WWE, if anybody, are you accusing of engaging in fraud
towards you?

A. I didn't accuse anybody of saying fraud. . . .

WWE's motion also claimed that in the case of Singleton, the facts were "simpler" in that he failed to take a wrestling maneuver as he had been taught and did not protect himself from getting a concussion, received one and was never allowed back in the ring.  WWE's motion stated that Singleton, "falsely told various health care providers he had sustained an intracranial hemorrhage when in fact three different tests showed he did not and no test ever showed he did."

WWE's motion also featured an excerpt of their deposition with Singleton, where he did not even know what CTE was, despite him suing regarding WWE's involvement in alleged head-trauma related injuries:

Q: When did you first hear about CTE?
A: What is CTE?

Q: Well, I’m asking you: When did you first hear--
Mr. Pogast: If you have
Q: of CTE?

A: Oh, I didn’t.

* * *
Q: So I take it, then, nobody’s told you you have CTE?
A: No.

Q: And nobody’s told you that you should fear having CTE?
A: Not that I know of. I don’t know.

Q: And I take it if you don’t know what CTE is, you don’t have any fear
of having CTE?
A: No.

Q: No, I’m correct?
A: Yes

Q: In other words, you don’t have fear of having CTE?
A: No. I don’t know what it is

WWE's motion also claimed that Singleton could not explain why he was suing WWE, even after taking 22 seconds to pause before answering the question.

The motion also claimed that like LoGrasso, Singleton did not know he was even claiming WWE had acted fraudulently in his lawsuit against them:

Q: Do you realize you’re claiming fraud in this case?
A: No.

Q: You don’t realize you’re making a fraud claim?
A: No.

Given that both LoGrasso and Singleton had, on the record, disavowed that they were claiming WWE had acted fraudulently against them, WWE asked the court to rule the fraud claim was out, since there was no basis for their claim and that the claim, since it had no evidence supporting it never got out of "the starting blocks."

WWE's motion also noted: "In this case, much time and effort was spent dealing with allegations that Plaintiffs’ counsel claimed were the requisite fraudulent omissions, ranging from Stephanie McMahon’s Congressional testimony, to statements made by the McMahons in television interviews, to a 2015 opinion stated by Dr. Maroon on the NFL Network.   Since detrimental reliance is a critical element of a fraud claim, those allegations should not have been made unless the Plaintiffs in some way detrimentally relied upon them. However, all of these were shown to be complete red herrings which were not even known to either Plaintiff, let alone detrimentally relied upon by them. Singleton and LoGrasso both admitted that they had never read Stephanie McMahon’s Congressional testimony which, as this Court found, was repeatedly mischaracterized by Plaintiffs’ counsel anyway.   Neither mentioned Dr. Maroon’s 2015 statement at all, which was made after this suit was filed. Singleton admitted he never watched the televised programs where the McMahons were interviewed regarding the Benoit findings. He could not identify anything that he considered to be fraudulent to him.   As to Mr. McMahon’s statements questioning media reports that Benoit had the brain of an 85-year old with dementia, LoGrasso not only did not claim that was a fraudulent omission that misled him; he actually agreed with Mr.McMahon’s personal observation about Benoit’s mental acuity."

The motion also claimed that despite a number of WWE officials undergoing depositions, the Plaintiffs were unable to find "a shred of evidence, much less clear and convincing evidence, of contemporaneous fraudulent intent by anybody not to tell either Plaintiff some known fact about a reported link between repetitive head trauma, professional wrestling, and latent degenerative diseases such as CTE."

The motion also stated that LoGrasso admitted there was no discussion of CTE in the WWE locker room during his tenure with the company.  It also noted, "LoGrasso never reported a head injury to Dr. Rios (the independent contractor-physician retained by WWE during LoGrasso’s tenure), who LoGrasso admitted was a good doctor, or to anybody else at WWE. Thus, there would have been no occasion for Dr. Rios to discuss repetitive head injury with LoGrasso, nor ability to tell him about a discovery not even announced until after LoGrasso was released. Nobody could have urged him to perform in disregard of some known risk about CTE with contemporaneous fraudulent intent in any event.  On the contrary, the undisputed evidence demonstrates that WWE did exactly what a responsible company should do in the face of what this Court aptly described as “recent discoveries regarding a link between repeated head trauma and permanent degenerative neurological conditions” once it heard such media reports in September 2007."

WWE's motion stated that after the Sports Legacy Institute held a press conference announcing its findings regarding CTE in 2007, "WWE requested specific
information in writing from SLI regarding the Benoit findings to have it independently analyzed and evaluated in order to apply any verifiable and peerreviewed scientific findings to the prevention and management of concussions in its business."

WWE's motion also stated in 2012, a Twitter account used by Singleton featured a Tweet from him that read “Thank you @WWE for giving me the background.” in response to something that was redacted  - it may be in relation to a seminar held for developmental talents - but also noted that Singleton (who's WWE NXT name was Adam Mercer) has denied the account was his, despite there being personal photos and other aspects that link it to him.

WWE also argued that there could be no fraudulent behavior when the information was out there for the general public, and that the court had ruled that media stories regarding the finding of evidence of CTE in the brain of Chris Benoit were allowed to be included in the proceedings.  WWE's argument is that the Benoit findings - which LoGrasso admitted he had seen and read - were out there, so there was no way the company could have been fraudulently hiding them from others.

WWE's motion also argued that over the course of the proceedings, all the court has learned is that WWE did not omit facts to LoGrasso or Singleton, as had been alleged.    WWE noted, "The actual scientific evidence shows that CTE was not even mentioned at the International Conference on Concussion in Sport in 2001 or 2004" and was not mentioned until their conference in 2008 and that even as late as 2012, there was still no consensus reached within that organization "about the significance of anecdotal cases of CTE in football players."  So, WWE is arguing that there's no way they can be blamed for not knowing since it just wasn't information that was known and believed to be scientific fact during the time period LoGrasso worked for the company. 

WWE also noted that the only Federal Judge to "study the science" regarding CTE, Anita Brody, wrote, "“[t]he study of CTE is nascent, and the symptoms of the disease, if any, are unknown;” (b) “the association between repeated concussive trauma and long-term neurocognitive impairment remains unclear;” and (c) “[i]t is not possible to determine the causality or risk factors [for CTE] with any certainty. As such, the speculation that repeated concussion or subconcussive impacts cause CTE remains unproven.”

WWE's motion noted, "If WWE had stated to its talent or the media that an international consensus of scientists, and a federal judge who evaluated the evidence, had both found that it was unproven speculation to say that repeated concussive or subconcussive blows caused CTE, surely it could not be accused of fraud and forced to defend such a truthful statement because some plaintiff’s lawyer characterizes that as downplaying the science. How then can it be fraud to say nothing?  As this science has emerged, some scientists have proclaimed that their opinions are certain truths, while others have disagreed or been more circumspect. Leading researchers have cautioned that “CTE research has a particular ability to be misunderstood by the lay public and sensationalized in the media.” The legal point, however, is that science determined to be nascent and unproven speculation by scientific consensus in 2012 and by one Federal Circuit in 2015 cannot credibly have been a “known fact” years before in another Circuit upon which to base a serious charge of fraudulent omission by an entertainment company."

Regarding LoGrasso, WWE stated, "In light of the undisputed existence of widespread publicly-available information, there is no genuine fact issue as to whether Plaintiffs could have discovered such information through reasonable inquiry. LoGrasso actually admitted he knew all about the news stories that Benoit had CTE reportedly caused by head trauma after his relationship with WWE ended and that it was a huge story. It is, therefore, conclusively established that LoGrasso had actual knowledge that repetitive head trauma in wrestling had been associated in media stories with CTE. Moreover, nothing said or done by WWE after LoGrasso departed can be said to have been detrimentally relied upon by him to continue performing for WWE and, as noted, he admitted he never heard or read any of the things WWE said after he left which were alleged to have been fraud. The evidence also shows that he personally witnessed the potential consequences of head trauma having watched a famous match in 1999 involving Bret Hart where Hart’s career ended due to a concussion from a kick to the head, which he admitted was big news. After that, while performing for other promotions before joining WWE, there is undisputed video evidence of him repeatedly receiving unprotected blows to the head with a metal chair and other objects which he made no attempt to block. After he admittedly learned that his friend, Chris Benoit, reportedly had CTE from head trauma, he did not speak to his own doctor or quit wrestling, even though he now claims he was symptomatic at that time, and despite knowing that blows to the head had caused the deterioration in Muhammad Ali."

On Singleton, WWE's motion stated that Singleton has not denied attending a WWE meeting on concussions, instead stating that he does "not recall" the meeting, that he was injured taking a chokeslam from Erick Rowan, that he had previously taken the move from Rowan, knew that if he didn't tuck his chin that he would be injured and was aware he was going to be taking the maneuver the night he was injured.  Singleton was also told that he would not be allowed back in the ring until the effects of a concussion were gone.    They also stated his injury was from one move, not repeated concussions and that "Other than the September 27, 2012 incident, Singleton did not report any other head injury to WWE doctors or trainers."  WWE stated, "In sum, Singleton’s only injury was a concussion caused by his own failure to execute a move correctly, and not by some omission about neurodegenerative disease."

WWE also stated there is no clear evidence that LoGrasso's alleged injuries were caused by the company omitting facts from him during his run there.    The motion stated, "For LoGrasso to have relied upon any omission in a manner that caused him to suffer long-term neurodegenerative conditions from head injuries at WWE, it by definition had to be made during the time he performed for WWE. He has identified none. Additionally, Plaintiffs’ theory is that repetitive blows to the head
cause CTE and/or other long-term neurodegenerative diseases. LoGrasso has admitted that while performing for Extreme Championship Wrestling (“ECW”), a very violent promotion, and World Championship Wrestling (“WCW”) before coming to WWE for his run from 2005-2007, he did “hard core” matches, in which the wrestlers used chairs, bats, tables, and garbage cans to hit each other over the head.  Graphic footage demonstrates that LoGrasso repeatedly received violent blows to the head from such objects while performing in ECW and WCW, and made no attempt to protect himself.   Conversely, LoGrasso admits that he never received any chair shots while performing for WWE.   When asked how he knows that his claimed symptoms were not caused by his performances in ECW and WCW, LoGrasso squarely admitted “[n]obody knows, I don’t know.”  WWE stated that LoGrasso's admission that he didn't know meant "LoGrasso cannot demonstrate that any of his now-alleged injuries were proximately caused by WWE, much less by detrimental reliance on any fraudulent omission by WWE." 

WWE also pointed out that LoGrasso continued to wrestle, even after learning the results of the Benoit findings.

WWE's motion also stated that LoGrasso admitted he had his own doctor while he was contracted to WWE, so he had  "access to his own personal physician and source of specialized knowledge" and also stated that WWE's Dr. Rios was a "good doctor."  The Plaintiffs did not depose Rios during the case.  WWE stated there is no evidence that either WWE or Rios "abused" their medical relationship with LoGrasso.

WWE also argued that they had no responsibility to LoGrasso after their contractual relationship ended noting that Connecticut law, "does not impose on a non-health care provider an obligation to warn persons with whom it has no continuing relationship of new scientific opinions regarding potential medical conditions such persons might develop. There is no such duty even on health care providers when those providers are not aware of any misdiagnosis and there is no ongoing relationship."  WWE stated in their motion there is no evidence of a misdiagnosis of LoGrasso from when he was working for the company and even if there had been, there was no evidence that either WWE or Dr. Rios would have been aware of it.

WWE noted that LoGrasso began to experience bad headaches in 2008-2010 and stated that in his deposition, "LoGrasso went even further and claimed that his symptoms, including headaches, started in response to a head injury in a specific October 10, 2006 WWE match when his head supposedly hit the steel steps.  Although he was forced to admit later that his head never actually hit the steps, he refused to recant any of his own testimony about that match, including
that the onset of his symptoms started in direct response to head trauma in that specific WWE match in October of 2006." 

LoGrasso's testimony in question:

"That’s when they started, that’s ? after I got hit, after I hit my head in that match, that’s when my headaches became ? I didn’t understand why I was getting them, and that’s when things changed for me and my health changed with my head."

So, WWE is claiming LoGrasso is using a bump into the stairs as the origination point of his issues, but he later admitted he didn't actually hit his head during that point in the match.  Previous filings noted that LoGrasso admitted he did not when presented with multiple camera angles of that match.

Should WWE be successful in the motion, they would have effectively defeated the case brought against them by Singleton and LoGrasso, the final lawsuit filed in the initial round of lawsuits brought against them.  Previous lawsuits against WWE involving Billy Jack Haynes, Ryan Sakoda, Russ McCullough, Matthew "Luther Reigns" Wiese, the estate of the late Matt "Borne" Osbourne and the estate of the late Nelson Frazier Jr. pka Big Daddy V have all been dismissed.

Still remaining is a class action lawsuit against WWE, filed by over 50 former WWE performers (some of whom were never under contract and appeared in enhancement roles on TV), in July 2016, including lead plaintiff Joseph "Road Warrior Animal" Laurinaitis alleging that the company hid their knowledge of medical conditions, such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, from the wrestlers because the-then WWF "placed corporate gain over its wrestlers’ health, safety and financial security, choosing to leave the plaintiffs severely injured and with no recourse to treat their damaged minds and bodies.

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