Professional Wrestlers Sue WWE for Brain Damage

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Mar 22, 2021

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A group of 53 former professional wrestlers are suing World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., arguing that there is a link between the head injuries that they sustained while working for the company and CTE, a progressive degenerative brain disease.

The plaintiffs include former WWE stars and former wrestlers for WCW and ECW, which are now part of the WWE. Among the plaintiffs are WWE Hall of Famers, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and “Road Warrior Animal” Joseph Laurinaitis. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is also listed as a plaintiff. Snuka was recently found incompetent to stand trial for the murder and manslaughter of his former girlfriend. Snuka’s defense relied on expert testimony that he suffered from dementia and concussions during his wrestling career.

Plaintiffs Allege WWE Put Profits Over Safety

The 214-page complaint alleges 17 causes of action against the WWE and its chairman, Vince McMahon. According to the suit, WWE wrestling matching involve specific moves that are choreographed by the WWE, making the company directly liable for the wrestlers’ injuries. The claims include allegations that the WWE misclassified the wrestlers as independent contractors, depriving them of employment rights such as health care. The suit argues that the WWE and Vince McMahon put profits over safety, requiring its wrestlers to engage in risky maneuvers where injury was inevitable.

The lead plaintiff, Joseph Laurinaitis, alleges that he performed hundreds of nights per year and suffered at least four concussions with little or no treatment from the WWE’s ringside medical team. Plaintiff Paul Orndorff claims that he was pressured to work while he was injured and routinely suffered head trauma that has caused clinical depression, paranoia, confusion, and sever mood swings.

The lawsuit requests in injunction against the WWE and in favor of plaintiffs for medical monitoring, compensatory and punitive damages, and “[d]isgorgement of all proceeds flowing from Defendants’ unjust and unlawful fraudulent pattern and practice of misrepresenting, concealing, and omitting necessary information from Plaintiffs.”

WWE Disputes Validity of Lawsuits

The WWE released a statement aimed at one of the lawyers who brought the suit, Konstantine Kyros. “This is another ridiculous attempt by the same attorney who has previously filed class-action lawsuits against WWE, both of which have been dismissed…A federal judge has already found that this lawyer made patently false allegations about WWE, and this is more of the same. We’re confident this lawsuit will suffer the same fate as his prior attempts and be dismissed.”

Kyros responded that, “It has been the studied practice of WWE through its counsel to denigrate the motives and integrity of anyone who is courageous enough to protest WWE’s self-serving choice to ignore the human toll and health crisis that its policies, fraud, and mistreatment of its workers have created.” Kygos also noted that he is appealing the dismissal of the two class-action suits that the WWE mentioned and that two unlawful death suits against the WWE are still pending.

This complaint is similar to recent lawsuits that were filed against the National Football League and National Hockey League by former players who suffered head injuries. The NFL suit settled for $1 billion. The NHL suit is still pending.

(Photo Credit: “Tyler Reks” v “Curt Hawkins” at NXT taping in London 17th April 2012” by Ed Webster is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)



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