By Christine Stuart
A Texas medical examiner had found that Matthew Wade Osborne’s death from opiate toxicity was accidental, but the wrestler’s mother argued in a 2015 complaint that 57-year-old Osborne suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy from repeated head trauma.
Osborne wrestled for WWE from 1985 to 2007. His family is one of several to accuse the organization in recent years of failing to properly educate, prevent, diagnose and treat wrestlers for concussions.
Another common allegation of the lawsuits is that the violent “scripts” wrestlers perform in the WWE are prepared negligently.
The lawsuit by Osborne’s mother, Michelle James, was eventually transferred to Connecticut, where the WWE is based, and consolidated with similar cases.
On Nov. 10, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant dismissed the suit, along with a similar action by the family of Nelson Lee Frazier Jr., a wrestler who performed under the names King Mabel and Big Daddy V.
The 28-page ruling notes that James, Osborne’s mother, failed to document her head-trauma claims.
CTE can only be diagnosed in an autopsy, but James did not allege that the medical examiner actually collected or examined such samples by direct tissue examination of Osborne’s brain.
She suggested merely that “any tissue samples of [Osborne’s] brain tissue collected during his autopsy can be studied for the presence of Tau protein for a definitive diagnosis,” according to the ruling.
“Consequently, James has failed to allege facts that would indicate on what information she relied to determine that Osborne had CTE, or that Osborne’s death from a drug overdose was caused by CTE,” the ruling continues.
Judge Bryant found such evidence also lacking for Frazier, who was cremated without an autopsy after he suffered a fatal heart attack in Tennessee on Feb. 18, 2014.
A medical examiner listed the cause of death for 43-year-old Frazier as “hypertensive cardiovascular disease,” compounded by morbid obesity and diabetes mellitus, according to the ruling.
During his 15-year WWE career, which spanned 1993 to 2008, the wrestler maintained a weight of approximately 500 pounds, Bryant noted.
The judge called it conclusory for the widow Cassandra Frazier to allege that WWE’s negligence put her husband “in a worse-off state of well-being as evidenced by the above complications.”
“Counsel’s allegation that Frazier’s ‘inability to survive the heart attack’ can be ‘more likely than not attributed’ to his CTE is yet another bald and baseless allegation, unprovable and unsupportable, which the court deems unworthy of the barest measure of credibility,” Bryant wrote.
Bryant called it “impossible to plausibly allege, much less prove that either wrestler had CTE.”
Konstantine Kyros, an attorney for the families here, said Tuesday in a phone interview that “it’s a disappointing decision.”
Though the court saw no proof CTE in Osborne and Frazier, Kyros noted that he represents the families of two other deceased wrestlers whose brains were preserved.
Kyros filed these cases on Nov. 9. He said he hopes they will fair better.
WWE had also sought sanction against the families’ counsel, accusing Kyros, Erica Mirabella and R. Christopher Gilreath of shopping their cases around to various venues and using inflammatory and inaccurate language to describe the injuries suffered by their clients.
Bryant wrote that it was a “close call” but decided against sanctioning the plaintiff attorneys.
“The court would be well within its broad discretion to sanction counsel for their failure to adhere to the court’s instructions and trim the inflammatory content and unnecessary length of the carbon-copy complaints in these consolidated cases,” Bryant wrote. “Their failure to do so forced the court to needlessly expend resources combing through hundreds of paragraphs of allegations, to find a single shred of relevant factual content indicating whether plaintiffs asserted a plausible claim. In doing so, however, the plaintiffs only further underlined for the court the lack of substantive factual content actually contained in these complaints.”
Kyros declined to discuss this aspect of the ruling but disputes the characterization of his efforts as misleading.
Bryant’s dismissal of the cases comes eight nearly months after she tossed concussion claims by “Big Russ” McCullough, Evan Singleton and William Albert “Billy Jack” Haynes III.