WWE Hit with New Lawsuit Over Brain Injuries

Law360, New York (July 18, 2016, 8:58 PM ET) — World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. and chairman Vince McMahon were hit with another suit by former wrestlers alleging the WWE failed to protect them from the risks of repeated head injuries, saying the company did not inform wrestlers that even properly performed moves result in head injuries that can lead to neurological problems.

A group of over 50 wrestlers alleged the WWE and McMahon failed to properly care for them during their career “in any medically competent or meaningful manner that complied with any known published contact sports return-to-play guidelines,” resulting in repeated head injuries, concussions and subconcussive blows that have led to neurological diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE.

The plaintiffs say the company has further “fraudulently misrepresented and concealed” the true nature and extent of the “occupational long-term neurological injuries” present in the plaintiffs due to their wrestling careers.

“The wrestling moves that involve the occupational head trauma that causes CTE and associated diseases from the accumulated effects of [traumatic brain injuries] are the result of wrestling moves and maneuvers that were performed ‘correctly’ by the plaintiffs,” the suit said. “In other words, the head trauma that has resulted in injury is the accumulated effect of many impacts to the plaintiffs’ heads that occurred on a regular, routine basis during their WWE career.”

The suit alleged that WWE and McMahon “exercised near total control” over the plaintiffs, even scripting storylines and “gimmicks” controlling the projection of each plaintiffs career and providing medical treatment when necessary.

“As a result, plaintiffs completely and reasonably relied on WWE and [McMahon’s] knowledge. information and authority in deciding whether to perform or seek treatment for injuries,” the suit said.

The suit comes after others against the WWE by former wrestlers, brought by some of the same attorneys in this new suit.

Wrestlers Evan Singleton and Vito LoGrasso filed a suit last January in Pennsylvania federal court, but it was transferred to Connecticut last year along with two class actions by wrestlers claiming the WWE failed in its duty to inform them of the risks of concussion. However, U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant tossed those class actions from the combined suit in March and trimmed Singleton and LoGrasso’s suit to two claims of fraud by omission.

“Our investigation in the WWE’s practices has revealed an extensive and long standing exploitative business model of misclassifying its wrestlers as independent contractors.” attorney Konstantine W. Kyros of Kyros Law Offices, who represents the plaintiffs in the new suit as well as Singleton and LoGrasso, told Law360.

“This lawsuit seeks to provide these former WWE wrestlers … with the ability to receive treatment for their workplace injuries and to prevent WWE and the McMahon family from continuing to fraudulently conceal and deceive the United States, the public and its wrestlers,” he added.

The new suit further brings claims for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, National Labor Relations Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and workers compensation statutes of various states.

The WWE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs are represented by Brenden P. Leydo of Wocl Leydon, LLC, Konstantine W. Kyros and Anthony M. Norris of the Kyros Law Offices, S. James Boumil of Boumil Law Offices. Erica Mirabella of Mirabella Law LLC and R. Christopher Gilreath of Gilreath & Associates.

Counsel information for the WWE and McMahon was not available.

The case is Laurinaitis et al v. World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. et al., case number 3:16-cv-01209, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

–Additional reporting by Braden Campbell and Matthew Perlman. Editing by Philip Shea.

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