WWE Dodges Wrongful Death Concussion Claims

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By Steven M. Sellers

Nov. 15 — Vague, unsupported and misleading brain injury claims by the survivors of two professional wrestlers aren’t enough to sustain wrongful death claims against World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., the District of Connecticut ruled Nov. 10 ( McCullough v. World Wrestling Entm’t, Inc. , D. Conn., No. 15-cv-01074, 11/10/16 ).

Michelle James, the mother of former WWE wrestler Matthew Osborne, didn’t submit evidence he died of a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the court said.

The disease is associated with repetitive head traumas, such as those that occur in collision sports, and can be diagnosed only after death.

There was no evidence Osborne’s brain had been studied to establish he had CTE, or that she had standing to sue on his behalf, the court said.

Osborne competed in the WWE for two one-year stints in the 1990s, not the decades of wrestling alleged in the complaint, the court said.

The ruling in consolidated litigation also dismissed the case of Cassandra Frazier, the widow of former wrestler Nelson Lee Frazier. She claimed his health problems were the result of WWE’s negligence, but never submitted autopsy evidence he had CTE, the court said.

Frazier, who wrestled in at least 289 matches beginning in 1993, had an average weight of 500 pounds when he competed. He died from a heart attack in 2014, according to the decision.

Frazier’s claim that WWE’s negligence put her husband in a “worse-off state of well-being” was insufficient to state a wrongful death claim under Connecticut law, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut said.

Representation of Cassandra Frazier included the Kyros Law Offices, Mirabella and Gilreath & Associates.

K&L Gates, as well as Baker, Donselson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkovity represented World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington, D.C. at ssellers@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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