Trials & Litigation

Pro wrestlers' suit 'shamelessly plagiarizes' from NFL concussion complaint, sanctions motion says

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A motion filed on behalf of World Wrestling Entertainment on Monday claims a lawsuit filed against the company “blatantly and shamelessly plagiarizes extensive allegations” from a concussion lawsuit filed against the National Football League.

The motion (PDF) signed by K&L Gates partner Jerry McDevitt asks a federal judge in Connecticut to impose Rule 11 sanctions, (sub. req.) reports. The suit filed on behalf of 53 former wrestlers claimed they had suffered head injuries that created or put them at risk of neurological problems.

According to the sanctions motion, the wrestlers’ suit asserted that actions and statements made by the NFL were instead made by World Wrestling Entertainment. The motion alleges that the wrestling lawsuit:

• Copied an assertion in the NFL complaint about studies finding a football player requires significant rest after a concussion, but changed the allegation to claim the studies related to a “football wrestler.”

• Copied the NFL suit allegation that football player Mike Webster “sustained repeated and disabling head impacts while a player for the Steelers” but changed the allegation to claim that Webster was a “wrestler.”

• Copied the allegation that the NFL produced its own scientific research that claimed there was an insufficient or no link between concussions and later-life brain injury, but changed the allegation to assert that the WWE had funded and produced such research.

• Changed an allegation in the NFL complaint about the hiring of “incompetent and unqualified persons” to create indefensible research, but changed it to assert WWE had done so. In reality, WWE never hired anyone to conduct such research, the motion says.

The sanctions motion also claims the wrestlers asserted legal claims that are not even recognized causes of action. One count was for “unconscionable contracts” even though unconscionability is a defense rather than an independent cause of action, the motion states. Another count asserted “accounting and disgorgement” even though it is a remedy rather than a cause of action. Nor is “medical monitoring” an independent cause of action, the motion says.

One of the lawyers for the wrestlers, Konstantine Kyros, told that the wrestlers’ suit “does rely on the NFL case, because the issues and history of the science of head trauma brought to light in the NFL fight lay the groundwork for the legal claims in this case.”

He says the WWE lawyers “basically found a few paragraphs in which the word ‘players’ was replaced with the word ‘wrestler, ’ ” but a few typos are not false allegations.

The motion for sanctions was filed in a suit filed by Kyros in July. He and co-counsel previously filed five suits that have been transferred to Connecticut federal court; two of them have been dismissed, according to the sanctions motion. A judge in one of the previous cases advised Kyros and co-counsel to “read and get a better grip on the pleading standard” before filing an amended complaint.

The July suit, according to the motion, is “the latest action in a lengthy and abusive litigation campaign against WWE orchestrated and pursued by Mr. Kyros and his co-counsel.” WWE filed a motion to dismiss the suit on Thursday. The case is Laurinaitis v. World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

Updated at 1:25 p.m. to state that WWE has filed a motion to dismiss.

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