Federal Judge Clears WWE in Concussion Lawsuit

(CN) – World Wrestling Entertainment won a federal lawsuit filed by two wrestlers who claimed they were not warned about the dangers of concussions, after a judge found the company did not hide what it knew about head trauma.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant in Connecticut issued a ruling Wednesday dismissing the claims of Evan Singleton and “Big Vito” LoGrasso. A related case filed by wrestler Russ McCullough was dismissed in 2016.

LoGrasso is the only one of the three wrestlers who competed on the WWE’s main programs, while McCullough and Singleton were in the company’s developmental system.

The wrestlers alleged WWE committed fraud by failing to disclose the link between concussions and permanent brain damage, but Judge Bryant rejected their claims.

“The evidence does not support a finding that WWE knew of a risk that repeated head injuries incurred while performing as a professional wrestler could cause permanent degenerative neurological conditions,” she wrote in the 21-page ruling.

The wrestlers had argued that the work of doctors Joseph Maroon and Mark Lovell in the head-trauma field dates back to the 1980s, but Bryant noted that they did not work for WWE during that time.

“That knowledge cannot be imputed to WWE until 2008 at the earliest,” the judge wrote.

She also noted that the aftereffects of concussions, including “second impact syndrome” caused by two consecutive concussions, cause “symptoms that last months, but not permanently.”

Bryant’s opinion also discusses the 2005 work of Dr. Bennett Omalu, the main character in the Will Smith movie “Concussion.”

She stated that Omalu’s conclusions were “equivocal and inconclusive,” noting that the doctor called for more research on the aftereffects of concussions on football players.

“Plaintiff further offers no evidence to suggest that at the time Dr. Omalu’s article was published, any research existed that would suggest that Dr. Omalu’s findings regarding one football player might apply to professional wrestlers, or that the frequency and severity of head trauma suffered by football players is similar to that suffered by professional wrestlers,” Bryant wrote.

The plaintiffs also argued that WWE learned of the dangers of concussion by one of its own wrestlers, Chris “Harvard” Nowinski.

After his retirement from the ring due to post-concussion syndrome, Nowinski published a book in 2006 called “Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis.”

But Bryant also rejected this argument, writing, “Plaintiffs have not offered any new evidence showing that WWE was aware of Nowinski’s research, that anyone at WWE read Nowinski’s book, or that anything in Nowinski’s book would suggest a link between professional wrestling and permanent degenerative neurological conditions.”

Wrestler Chris Benoit had reportedly been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, before he killed his wife, child and himself in 2007.

While WWE leaders Vince and Stephanie McMahon publicly doubted reports of Benoit’s diagnosis, the company began working with Maroon and Lovell and added neurological testing to its wellness program.

WWE wrestlers are now given baseline concussion tests annually, according to the ruling.

LoGrasso claimed that he suffered head trauma in five matches during his stint with the company from 2005 to 2007.

He testified that after the WWE stated Benoit’s actions were not related to wrestling, “I trusted in the WWE and what they were saying at the time.”

Judge Bryant found that LoGrasso did not prove fraudulent concealment on the part of WWE.

“Although WWE attempted to discredit the finding that Benoit had CTE, and tried to distance WWE from Benoit’s behavior,” she wrote, “no reasonable jury could find that WWE concealed the fact of Benoit’s diagnosis from LoGrasso.”

Singleton’s career ended in 2012 after he did not take a chokeslam maneuver correctly. He claimed that he did not attend Maroon’s presentation a month earlier on the topics of drug abuse and concussion risks.

“Holding a training session in which it is explained that repeated concussions can cause CTE and that CTE can be fatal, is not consistent with a deliberate effort to withhold information for the purpose of inducing Singleton to continue wrestling,” Bryant wrote.

While WWE has beaten the claims of Singleton, LoGrasso and McCullough, it still faces a separate lawsuit filed by dozens of other former wrestlers making similar allegations. The company responded to that suit by calling it “ridiculous.”

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