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July 1, 2016

The Latest On The WWE Concussion Lawsuit

As previously reported on PWInsider.com, many of the lawsuits brought against WWE for allegedly failing to disclose information and caring about the well being of talents when it comes to concussion-related issues and CTE have for the most part been dismissed (although some of those dismissals are currently being appealed). The lone exception, as of this writing, has been the lawsuit brought against the company by former WWE talent Vito LoGrasso and former developmental talent Evan Singleton.

In that case, many of the claims brought against WWE by LoGrasso and Singleton were dismissed for the same reasons as the other lawsuits but one* (see below) of the claims against WWE in this lawsuit was allowed to move forward. Specifically allowed was their claim alleging 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 is allowing that aspect of the case to move forward so the matter can be determined.

WWE has been arguing against this, noting that at no point during his WWE run, did Lo LoGrasso ever report a head injury or was diagnosed with a concussion nor could he name a date or place where anyone from WWE that he complained about an issue and was then medically cleared "without adequate rest" while in the case of Singleton, he was required to attend a talk about the dangers of concussions given by Dr. Joseph Maroon and then was never cleared to return to the ring by WWE medical personnel after being injured in the ring.

As the sides continue to argue that remaining existing point of the lawsuit, depositions have taken place involving a number of WWE executives including Vince McMahon and Paul Levesque. A deposition regarding former WWE talent turned concussion expert Chris Nowinski has been a major bone of contention within the two sides with the court ruling initially that there was no reason for Nowinski to be deposed in the matter.

Attorneys for LoGrasso and Singleton requested the court to reconsider and around the same time, there just happened to be a Boston Globe article about Nowinski that alleged that he was "too close" to WWE given they had donated money towards his Concussion Legacy Foundation.

The jist of the article, featuring quotes from former WWE talents such as Renee Dupree (who just had his own lawsuit against the company dropped days after filing it) was that Nowinski had "abandoned' his fellow former wrestlers by working too closely with WWE and despite getting many to agree to sign over their brains for future research on CTE, there were many others who passed away who Nowinski did allegedly not reach out to. Interestingly, there was a reference to attorney Konstantine Kyros (who is spearheading all of the concussion lawsuits against the company) in the article as well, noting that Kyros represented the families of the late Axl Rotten, Balls Mahoney and Joanie "Chyna" Laurer in sending their brains to Dr. Bennet Omalu (the doctor who's work in CTE was chronicled in the film "Concussion" as played by Will Smith) who was working in conjunction with Nowinski but no longer is. Nowinski responded to the article on his Foundation's website at this link. The timing of the article, given that whether Nowinski would be deposed or not in the lawsuit was still up in the air, is extremely interesting.

On 6/28, Judge Vanessa L. Bryant gave a final ruling on whether Nowinski could be deposed in the matter, ruling, "Plaintiff has not identified any facts or controlling decisions that the Court overlooked when the Court found that Plaintiff had not demonstrated that the prior discovery deadline could not be met despite the due diligence of counsel, as required by Local Rule 7(b), for the extension of Court deadlines. Moreover, Plaintiffs have not identified facts, beyond mere speculation, that Nowinski has knowledge concerning WWE's own knowledge or lack thereof that is relevant to the Court's discovery Order. If Nowinski indeed undertook research and published a book and made public statements concerning head injuries, such facts are publicly available for plaintiff to use in building a case to the extent such facts are relevant to the surviving claim. Plaintiff, however, has offered no facts to suggest that Nowinski's work with "Smackdown Your Vote" during the time period in which he researched and authored the book provides him with any knowledge relevant to the discovery Order, let alone knowledge that necessitates both reopening the discovery period and compelling the appearance of a third party witness."

So, Nowinski will not be deposed in regard to the case.

As previously noted, lawsuits brought against the company by Billy Jack Hayes, Russ McCullough, Luther Reigns and Ryan Sakoda have been dismissed. Those dismissals are being appealed.

Lawsuits brought by the estates of the late Matt Osbourne (pka as Matt Borne) and Nelson Frazier Jr. (pka Big Daddy V) are still pending.

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