Just a year after the NFL settled a $765 million lawsuit alleging the organization endangered players by hiding evidence supporting the high risk associated with brain trauma, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) finds itself in a similar situation. Last week, professional wrestler William Haynes (aka Billy Jack Haynes) filed a lawsuit against the WWE in U.S. Federal Court. The crux of the claim is stated in the introduction, which alleges:
Under the guise of providing “entertainment,” WWE has, for decades, subjected its wrestlers to extreme physical brutality that it knew, or should have known, caused long-term irreversible bodily damage, including brain damage. For most of its history, WWE has engaged in a campaign of misinformation and deception to prevent its wrestlers from understanding the true nature and consequences of the injuries they have sustained.
Haynes is demanding a jury trial and has entered the complaint as a class action suit, which means that other people (professional wrestlers) in a similar situation may join the suit up to a certain point in the litigation. The complaint goes on to state that, though much of the matches are scripted, extreme violence and pain is encouraged and rewarded. This includes life-changing and life-threatening head trauma.
The long-term affects of head trauma have been a heavily researched area of medicine and point of interest for the public over the last several years. There is an abundance of data proving that repeated trauma could cause major physical complications as well as psychological health problems. Punch drunk syndrome (CET) is commonly diagnosed due to this type of trauma and encompasses elements of both physical and mental impairment. In virtually all other sports, including MMA and boxing, once extreme head trauma is evident, the competition is called to stop for the safety of the athlete.
The complaint goes on to state,
WWE’s treatment of their athletes has no parallel in other sports. WWE wrestlers routinely: jump form high elevations on to each other while performing dangerous “moves”; beat each other repeatedly with chairs, chains, garbage canes, and other weapons; subject each other to kicks and punches; pick each other up and slam each other on their heads; and throw each other from high elevations. What’s more, wrestlers fight, and are expected to fight, through serious injuries, including concussions. This, of course, puts WWE wrestlers and a greatly increased risk of long-term brain damage.
Causes of action include:
- Fraudulent Concealment and Failure to Disclose or Warn
- Negligent Misrepresentation
- Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
- Medical Monitoring
- Strict Liability for Abnormally Dangerous Activities
Much of the suit echoes the sentiments of the NFL lawsuit, which may have established a strong enough precedent to give Haynes and other future plaintiffs to the case an advantage.