Wrestler’s Mom Blames WWE for Son’s Death

      DALLAS (CN) – The wrestler known as the villainous Doink the Clown died of a drug overdose caused by depression from traumatic brain injuries in the ring, his family claims in a lawsuit against World Wrestling Entertainment.
     The wrestler’s mother Michelle James sued World Wrestling Entertainment in Federal Court on Friday on behalf of her two young grandchildren, Teagan and Matthew Osborne.
     Her son, Matthew Wade Osborne, wrestled for WWE from 1985 to 2007 and died from a painkiller overdose in 2013 in his Plano home. He was 57.
     James claims WWE covered up the dangers of head trauma in professional wrestling, “in a campaign of misinformation and deception” that kept her son from understanding the consequences of his injuries.
     She claims her son did not take action to mitigate his injuries because of “misleading statements” by WWE and its failure to “assess, diagnose and treat concussive and sub-concussive injuries.”
     “WWE concealed important medical information, including the effects of multiple head traumas, and prematurely allowed Matthew Osborne to return to the ring or to practice, even when injured,” the 72-page complaint states. “As a result, wrestlers, including Matthew Osborne, suffered serious permanent and debilitating injuries and damages.”
     James claims that WWE’s chief doctor, Dr. Joseph Maroon, was “involved in prior concussion and head trauma cover ups, including attempts to discredit research related to CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).”
     Maroon is not named as a defendant.
     James claims WWE’s Wellness Program, which helps former wrestlers with problems of drug and alcohol abuse, failed to advise former wrestlers, including her son, about head injuries.
     “WWE has stated that it has ‘the finest monitoring program in American Sports,’ thereby admitting the undertaking by WWE to monitor its wrestler’s health and safety, and establishing its duty to provide full and accurate information to its wrestlers,” the complaint states. “WWE’s Wellness Program served to deceive Matthew Osborne by providing a false sense of security and assurance that his health and safety was being adequately monitored, both in the ring and as a former wrestler. The Wellness Program, by purporting to protect Matthew Osborne, merely led him into not seeking adequate treatment or otherwise protecting his health.”
     James lists 40 other former WWE wrestlers who died prematurely of suicide, heart attacks or drug addiction. Including WWE stars Randy Savage, Eddie Guerrero, Ultimate Warrior, Davey Boy Smith and Chris Benoit, the wrestlers form an “unfortunately prevalent case of mortality” in the company, James says.
     “The death rate among WWE wrestlers has yet to be subjected to statistical analysis by an expert qualified to conduct a such a study; however, upon information and belief, such an analysis would indicate that the death rate among wrestlers exceeds that of any similar athletic profession or any professional sport,” the complaint states.
     “WWE, as organizer and purveyor of professional wrestling in which head trauma is a regular and repeated occurrence, had a duty to act in the best interest of its wrestlers’ health and safety – including to keep wrestlers informed of the neurological risks associated with head injuries suffered while wrestling for WWE. WWE had superior knowledge and access to information, and should have disclosed that information to Matthew Osborne and not concealed such information.”
     James said her son did not wear helmets when he trained with the WWE, though the company now has its wrestlers wear helmets during training in company facilities.
     The complaint includes an image from this season’s WWE’s “Tough Enough” reality television show, showing aspiring wrestlers wearing black helmets in the ring.
     James’ lawsuit comes eight months after former WWE wrestlers sued the company in a federal class action in Portland, Ore., with similar claims : that the company hid and denied evidence and medical research regarding traumatic brain injuries.
     WWE attorney Jerry S. McDevitt, with K&L Gates in Pittsburgh, downplayed James’ lawsuit Friday evening as a money grab.
     He said it was the latest in attorneys’ attempts at “drumming up people” who are “looking for NFL money.”
     He said the lawsuits have no merit.
     “They are all different from the NFL,” McDevitt said. “We never had anyone claim they had these kinds of injuries until [these out-of-town attorneys] did. They find the destitute people who have no money and told them there’s money to be made. That is what is going on and I feel bad for these families, because they think they will make money off of this, and they will not.”
     James seeks actual and punitive damages for fraudulent concealment, fraud by omission, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent deceit, negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death.
     She is represented by Dr. Shezad A. Malik in Dallas, R. Christopher Gilreath in Memphis, Erica Mirabella in Boston, and Konstantine W. Kyros in Hingham, Mass.

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