The legal equivalent of folding chairs and ladders are flying in World Wrestling Entertainment’s concussion litigation involving some 50 former wrestlers.
WWE asked a Connecticut federal judge to impose Rule 11 sanctions Monday against attorneys for the wrestlers who say head injuries sustained while working for WWE are either causing or putting them at risk for neurological disease. WWE and its K&L Gates counsel accuse plaintiffs of cribbing almost blindly from a 2012 complaint filed by former football players in their own head-trauma lawsuit against the National Football League.
The copying is so obvious, K&L Gates partner Jerry McDevitt says in his motion, that the wrestlers alleged that former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster sustained “repeated and disabling head impacts while a wrestler for the Steelers.” The football players’ complaint states that Webster sustained “repeated and disabling head impacts while a player for the Steelers.”
That’s just one of the “numerous patently false and nonsensical allegations” in the wrestlers July 18 complaint, McDevitt writes.
One of the wrestlers’ attorneys, Konstantine Kyros, said in an email Tuesday that the new WWE suit “does rely on the NFL case, because the issues and history of the science of head trauma brought to light in the NFL fight lay the groundwork for the legal claims in this case.”
He said WWE “basically found a few paragraphs in which the word ‘players’ was replaced with the word ‘wrestler’ using a tool in Microsoft Word no doubt.” Kyros, of Massachusetts’ Kyros Law Office, said the argument “that a few typos are patently false allegations” shows “the flimsiness of the WWE’s untenable position on the health crisis in wrestling.”
Monday’s motion is not the first request for sanctions filed by WWE. The litigation has been in an Attitude Era since last summer, when U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant ordered Kyros and co-counsel William Bloss to refile their original complaint without “superfluous, hyperbolic, inflammatory opinions” and to “read it this time.”
Bryant eventually dismissed class action allegations by four wrestlers, but ruled that two others stated plausible individual claims that WWE might have known about the dangers and concealed them.
Fifty former wrestlers then filed the new 214-page lawsuit in July, saying WWE “placed corporate gain over its wrestlers’ health, safety and financial security.” Kyros is back for the plaintiffs, but Bloss is out, with Brenden Leydon of Stamford’s Tooher Wocl & Leydon acting as Connecticut counsel this time.
McDevitt calls the Rule 11 violations “shocking and egregious.” He accuses Kyros and his co-counsel of, among other things, making up nonexistent causes of action and of taking a statement by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that was quoted in the football players’ complaint and attributing it to WWE.
Kyros said Tuesday the wrestlers are in a major health crisis. “They suffer from CTE and neurological diseases and need help just like NFL players do.”