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TITUS O'NEIL-SWERVED LAWSUIT DISMISSED AFTER SETTLEMENT

By Mike Johnson on 2019-05-14 14:37:00

The lawsuit brought by cameraman Donald Anderson against World Wrestling Entertainment and WWE performer Thaddeus "Titus O'Neil" Bullard in the United States District Court, Middle Division, of Florida was officially dismissed yesterday after Anderson informed the court that all sides had come to a legal settlement.  The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

As PWInsider.com has previously covered, Anderson’s lawsuit against WWE and Bullard alleged Battery, Assault, Willful Misconduct, Negligence, Gross Negligence, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.  Anderson has alleged that WWE placed him in an unsafe working environment and that they had a duty to protect him from being placed in such a situation.   Anderson had alleged that he was injured by Bullard after the WWE star became upset while being filmed for a segment on WWE Network prank series Swerved. Anderson (who had been hired through a third party, Uranus Productions/Gorilla Flicks) was backstage at a WWE TV taping filming a segment where Bullard was shocked by WWE performer Paige (Saraya-Jade Bevis).  Bullard became, according to Anderson's lawsuit, "enraged", alleging charging and kicking the camera out of Anderson's hand, injuring him.   Bullard has denied those allegations in his response to Anderson's lawsuit.  Paige was not a party in the lawsuit.

Anderson claimed in the now-dismissed lawsuit that Uranus Productions were told that WWE, "would select their own representatives to organize, manage and direct the electric shock prank activity.  Consequently, WWE undertook the job of selecting specific WWE personalities as targets, on which to use the electric shock device."  So, he is placing all the blame for the incident taking place on WWE's shoulders.  Anderson also claimed in the suit that he was instructed by WWE that he was "not safe on the premises", that Bullard "could not be controlled" and would presenting an "ongoing threat" to Anderson.  Anderson claims he was instructed to leave the WWE venue out of fear that O'Neil might go after him again and was "whisked" away.   

The lawsuit also alleged that Bullard "was known by WWE as possessing significant anger management issues" and that Bullard's alleged assault lead to injuries on Anderson's hand, wrist and fingers to the point he could not work for six months.   In the lawsuit, Anderson claiming that he has faced "bodily injury, pain and suffering, mental anguish, extreme emotional distress, disfigurement, medical expenses, physical handicap, loss of income, loss of the capacity for enjoyment of life and loss of ability to earn money.

Bullard had filed a counter-suit against Anderson, alleging conspiracy to commit battery, conspiracy to commit assault, negligence, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress.   Bullard contends that Anderson was hired by Uranus Productions, who were hired to develop the Swerved TV series for WWE and "were responsible for generating storylines for each episode and for handling all aspects of physical production."     Bullard had alleged that Anderson filmed him being "harmed in an offensive and reckless" way, that he suffered harmful, offensive, reckless and intentional contact that he did not consent to and was injured and suffered damages, including and not limited to bodily injury, pain and suffering and mental anguish."  Bullard also alleged that Anderson should have known that the stunt would have caused severe and serious injury to Bullard but was negligent and disregarded Bullard's safety.

Bullard stated in a June 2018 court filing that he "acted out of necessity to prevent being assaulted" again by the cattle prod during the prank and that he "did not create the danger to be avoided and stopped his action when the danger was gone."  Bullard also stated that Anderson "knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk when he intentionally conspired, planned and participated" to "film/record the assault and battery" of Bullard with the cattle prod.  Bullard's response also stated that he "used reasonable force that was not greater than necessary to end the threat of being cattle prodded repeatedly."  Bullard is also arguing that any damages to Anderson were caused by his employer, Uranus Productions and that he should be covered by workman's compensation through them.  Bullard also argued  that since Anderson conspired with Uranus to assault him with the cattle prod, he should be barred from bringing any claims against Bullard.  Anderson responded that under Florida law, an employee could not conspire with an employer and that Bullard's claims should have been dismissed.

Bullard's counter-suit stated that WWE, "contractually retained all authority over all significant creative aspects" of the series and had to approve each prank, but that Bullard was assaulted with the cattle prod "unbeknownst to WWE" in the scene Anderson filmed that is now at the center of the lawsuit.   In his counter-suit, Bullard included material showing that the prank was not included on a list of sketches and pranks approved for the episode by Brian Terwillinger, at the time the WWE Vice President of Development. 

Bullard also alleged that Uranus Productions, including Anderson, "intentionally directed" Saraya Jade-Bevis (WWE performer Paige) to assault him with the cattle prod without any concern for his well-being.  Bullard also states that at no time did he "consent or otherwise approve of the wrongful, malicious acts" against him.

Anderson had alleged that Paige "took it upon her own accord" to shock Bullard in one of his most recent responses.

Bullard had requested an extension in his own discovery in the case last month, citing that he was unable to complete discovery so while WWE was in the process of learning whether they would be dismissed from the case or not, something that did not happen.  WWE had argued they did not fall under jurisdiction of the court in Florida as they were a Connecticut-based company.  Anderson had specifically used quotes from Paul Levesque and WWE Executive John Saboor about the importance of the WWE Performance Center in Florida in an Amended version of his lawsuit, attempting to use those comments in order to prove that WWE would indeed fall under the court's jurisdiction as they do business regularly in the Sunshine State.   Bullard noted that over the course of his own discovery, he intended to depose a number of those involved in the case, including Anderson, Paige, several executives from Uranus/Gorilla including Executive Producer Jeff Tremain, Director Ben Pluimer, and Producer Barry Smoller.    Bullard also told the court that intended to depose WWE Vice President of Digital Brian Terwillinger, intending to learn about the relationship between WWE and Gorilla/Uranus including whether Gorilla/Uranus “routinely film individuals being assaulted and battered without their consent.”  

A filing on 4/12 noted that in the case of Paige, they wanted to know the level of her involvement in the cattle prod incident and “to what extent she was directed” by Uranus/Gorilla.  Bullard is also seeking documentation on which WWE talents were asked or volunteered to take part in the Swerved series and is seeking all medical documentation on Anderson’s alleged injuries.  The court had given Bullard until 7/1 to complete that discovery, but yesterday's settlement likely ended those actions.

Bullard has previously reserved his right to sue Uranus Productions at a later time but to date, has not done so.  It remains to be seen if he pursues that legal course of action.

WWE discontinued the Swerved reality series after its second season.  The first season, where the alleged incident took place, saw WWE performers pranking each other.  The second season brought a slight change in the concept of the show, as WWE performers were now pranking other parties, including fans.

Bullard signed a WWE developmental deal in 2009 and was called up to the main roster in 2012.  He has been heavily involved in countless community outreach and charitable programs as part of his association with WWE as well as on his own in his local community.  He is releasing his first book this August.

Anderson's lawsuit has been dismissed without prejudice, allowing him a door to re-open legal action should the settlement not become 100% finalized.

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