Former WWE Superstars take brain damage case to US Supreme Court
The StarTribune in Minneapolis, MN is reporting that several former professional wrestlers who claimed in lawsuits WWE failed to protect them from repeated head injuries, are taking their case to the United States Supreme Court.
The report indicates that a lawyer for the former wrestlers filed a request late Wednesday asking the Court to hear the appeals of lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits, as the Court said the lawsuits that they filed were after the statute of limitations expired. The WWE responded by saying the lawsuits are without merit and believes the appeals will not succeed.
The plaintiffs include William “Billy Jack” Haynes, Russ “Big Russ” McCullough, Ryan Sakoda, Matthew “Luther Reigns” Wiese and the wife of the late Nelson Frazier, also known as Viscera and Big Daddy V, who died in 2014.
More than 50 former professional wrestlers, most of them who were stars in 1980s and 1990s are alleging they suffered repeated head injuries including concussions that ended up leading to long-term brain damage. They have accused WWE of knowing of the risks of head injuries, but not warning the talent of such risks. It was noted that several of the lawsuits were dismissed by a lower federal court in 2018.
Other former WWE talent who filed suit included Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Joseph “Road Warrior Animal” Laurinaitis, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff , Chris Pallies known as King Kong Bundy and Harry Masayoshi Fujiwara, known as Mr. Fuji.
Snuka who passed away in 2017 and Fujiwara who passed away in 2016 were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE, following their deaths, according to their lawyers. Pallies passed away in 2019 and Laurinaitis passed away in 2020 of undisclosed causes. Other plaintiffs are said to have dementia and other illnesses, according to the lawsuit.
Last September, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City dismissed several of the lawsuits, including some it said were filed past the statute of limitations. The court did, however, uphold 2018 rulings by federal judge Vanessa Bryant in Connecticut, who said there was no evidence t WWE knew concussions or head blows during wrestling matches could cause CTE.
Konstantine Kyros, the lawyer for the former wrestlers criticized the rulings saying that the former wrestlers have been “deprived of their fundamental rights as US Citizens, including their right to appeal.”
Kyros went on to say the 2nd Circuit court rejected earlier appeals because final rulings had not been made in all the lawsuits. After Bryant made the final rulings in 2018, Kyros refiled appeals in several of the lawsuits which are now before the Supreme Court. He did the 2nd Circuit rejected those appeals because the court said they filed too late according to a new precedent that has been set by the Supreme Court.
In her 2018 ruling, Judge Bryant also criticized Kyros for repeatedly failing to comply with court rules and orders. She ordered Kyros to pay WWE’s legal fees of more than $500,000.
The report also noted that Jerry McDevitt, a lawyer for the WWE, said he did not think the attempt to revive the five wrestlers’ lawsuits will succeed.