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FINAL COUNTS REMAINING AGAINST WWE IN ORIGINAL CONCUSSION LAWSUIT DISMISSED TODAY

By Mike Johnson on 2018-03-28 21:38:00

World Wrestling Entertainment scored the final victory today in the United States District Court of Connecticut when Judge Vanessa L. Bryant officially dismissed the remaining two counts from the original lawsuit filed by former WWE performers regarding the company's alleged lack of protection when it came to performers' health, specifically concussions, CTE and other brain-trauma related injuries.

Although several the allegations against the company had been previously thrown out by the court, there was one allegation that had been ruled as being able to go forward.  That charge, brought by Vito LoGrasso and former WWE developmental talent Evan Singleton, was a claim for fraud by omission.  The claim was allowed specifically because they had alleged 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.

In a 21-page ruling, Judge Bryant threw those final counts against WWE out, writing, "After careful consideration of the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, the Court has determined that the evidence does not support a finding that WWE knew of a risk that repeated head injuries incurred while performing as a professional wrestler could cause permanent degenerative neurological conditions prior to September 5, 2007."

LoGrasso had claimed his health issues began following a September 2006 concussion and that he had been suffering from migraines, memory loss, depression and deafness, all of which he claimed were a result of his time working for "nearly a decade" with the WWE.  While Lograsso worked for WWE as an enhancement talent in the early 1990s, he was only a contracted talent with the company from July 2005 through June 2007.    Over the course of the case, it came out that LoGrasso, in the years since leaving WWE, never told the company about his "symptoms."      WWE also reminded the court that despite LoGrasso's claims that WWE was responsible for his health issues, he had stated during a deposition that he never informed Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, John Laurinaitis or WWE's doctor at the time, Dr. Rios of any head injuries that he suffered while performing for the company.

Judge Bryant ruled that LoGrasso's claim could not continue because "undisputed evidence in the record demonstrates that WWE did not know of a potential link between concussions and permanent degenerative neurological disorders until after LoGrasso stopped wrestling. LoGrasso therefore could not have relied upon any omission to choose to continue wrestling, and any injury he suffered while wrestling could not have resulted from WWE's failure to state what it did not know."

Today's ruling also noted that LoGrasso had contacted WWE in 2009, seeking a job as a trainer, but failed to disclose to them at the time that he had been suffering from issues related to traumatic brain inury.   Bryant noted that LoGrasso had admitted, "that he had no communications with WWE about symptoms of traumatic brain injury after he last performed for WWE in 2007, and that WWE has provided no medical care to him since he left WWE" although they had sent him an annual letter offering assistance in paying for drug or alcohol addiction.

Therefore, Judge Bryant ruled, "LoGrasso’s claim cannot survive summary judgment because undisputed evidence in the record demonstrates that WWE did not know of a potential link between concussions and permanent degenerative neurological disorders until after LoGrasso stopped wrestling. LoGrasso therefore could not have relied upon any omission to choose to continue wrestling, and any injury he suffered while wrestling could not have resulted from WWE's failure to state what it did not know."

The ruling effectively ends LoGrasso's case against the WWE.

In the case of Singleton, who had not wrestled since 2012 after being injured taking a chokeslam during training, he had stated in the lawsuit that he was disabled due to brain trauma and that WWE had commited fraud by omission by not properly educating him about the dangers of brain trauma.

WWE had argued they could not be held liable because the company "had developed a concussion testing and education program in which Singleton participated or should have participated prior to his injury during which WWE disclosed to Singleton the risk of sustaining a brain injury while wrestling."   It was noted by Judge Bryant that it had been determined that Singleton had been ordered by the company to attend a mandatory 45-minute seminar on drug abuse and concussion risks in August 2012.  Singleton could not recall attending the seminar and pointed out that WWE did not maintain attendance of the seminar.   

On Singleton, WWE claimed in a February 2017 motion that "...[Singleton's] own binding admissions prove: (a) he received a baseline ImPACT test on December 1, 2011 during which he was told about the signs and symptoms of concussions;4 (b) prior to his injury he was told by a WWE physician that he would not be able to perform if he received a concussion and remained symptomatic; (c) he was injured performing a common move that he knew he would perform when he became a professional wrestler; (d) he knew he would get hurt if he performed the move wrong; (e) he, in fact, did perform it wrong on September 27, 2012; (f) the injury was an accident; (g) he never wrestled again after his injury;5 and (h) nobody has told him that he has CTE, and he does not have any fear of having CTE. Accordingly, his claim is about nothing more than an alleged patent injury arising from a risk he knew and assumed. It was caused by his own mistake, and he could not even make out a negligence claim, much less a claim for fraud."

Judge Bryant, however, sided with WWE, deciding that, "Holding a training session in which it is explained that repeated concussions can cause CTE and that CTE can be fatal, is not consistent with a deliberate effort to withhold information for inducing Singleton to continue wrestling. Plaintiffs have offered no evidence that Singleton’s alleged failure to attend this session was the result of a deliberate effort on WWE’s part to prevent him from learning about concussions or CTE. Consequently, no reasonable jury could find anything other than that WWE attempted to inform Singleton about the risks of concussions. His failure to cooperate with that attempt—or WWE’s allegedly negligent failure to ensure that all talent in fact attended the presentation—do not transmute WWE’s effort to educate performers about concussion risks into fraudulent omission."

Bryant also ruled that Singleton had not offered any evidence suggesting that WWE intentionally omitted any information that would have induced Singleton to continue wrestling, so his claim was thrown out, ending Singleton's lawsuit against WWE.

Judge Bryant also threw shade at Konstantine Kyros and the other attorneys that brought the lawsuits before the court, writing, "Once again, the Court notes Plaintiffs' counsels have asserted facts and advanced legal theories for which there is no reasonable evidentiary and legal basis; and once again cautions that such conduct subjects counsel to Rule 11 sanctions. Counsel are advised to read the record in its entirety before filing anything with the Court to assure their reasonable belief in any and all future assertions of fact and law."

Previously, WWE has successfully had lawsuits brought against them by former WWF/E performers Billy Jack Haynes, Ryan Sakoda, Matt "Luther Reigns" Wiese, Russ McCullough as well as suits filed by the estate of the late Nelson Frazier Jr. (Big Daddy V, among other characters) and Michelle James, the mother of the late Matt "Doink the Clown" Osbourne's children dismissed.

Still ongoing before Judge Bryant is another lawsuit brought against WWE by dozens of other former WWF/WWE contracted performers (as well as talents who worked for the company in the past on a per match basis) in July 2016 regarding WWE's alleged handling of concussions and the classification of WWE performers as independent contractors instead of employees.  That lawsuit was also brought before the court by Kyros and other associates.  In a February 2017 motion, attorneys for the plaintiff claimed the lawsuit was 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."

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