A frequent criticism of the claims made by the professional wrestlers suing WWE is that many “worked for other wrestling organizations, why are you blaming WWE?” or some variant of that analysis. The question is well put, but it misses the central theory of the claims and the fundamental idea of who is legally responsible for such injuries.
The theory of occupational head injuries is that corporations that make large sums of money promoting sports (for entertainment) or in the case of WWE what is fashioned “Sports Entertainment,” have duties to protect their athletes health and safety. For much of American history worker safety was not a top concern and over time it became apparent that corporations in many cases ignored worker health and safety so extensive laws and regulations were developed to protect people from being injured and exploited.
The theory of the WWE, NFL, NCAA and NHL cases is that if an athlete performs in dangerous conditions for their employer (or WWE which falsely calls wrestlers Independent Contractors- More elsewhere on this) and the athletes sustains injuries- the sports team, NCAA or WWE is responsible for helping care for the athletes and treating them for the injuries related to their work.
The types of injuries alleged in these cases are unique and complex, because the injuries involve the brain. Occupational head injuries are also said to be latent (or hidden) and degenerative- meaning that they often develop over time. The full effects of these head injuries and diseases found in wrestlers (and NFL, NHL, NCAA athletes) are extensive and medical experts believe the injuries are caused by wrestling (and sports) activities.
Relating these ideas back to the question posed in the first paragraph, the theory is that if the wrestler:
1) Worked/Wrestled for WWE,
2) Sustained any Occupational Head Injuries from the activity i.e. concussions, sub-concussions, or accumulation of small impacts from any performances in WWE,
3) The WWE has a legal duty to each wrestler and a duty to help care for these injuries.
Under this theory is does not matter if a wrestler worked for other promotions (Ironically mostly defunct or bought by WWE), was hit in the head by a tree, struck by lightning or anything else. The WWE is said to be held responsible for the injuries sustained by the wrestler in WWE events.
The reason the “other promotion” argument seems at first to hold sway is that common sense tells us that the cause of something can be from many sources, but the law does not make that the standard for liability or responsibility for what WWE itself did.
The reason is simple; if a corporation that put its workers in harm’s way simply was able to say- “hey but that worker also worked in other dangerous places in equally dangerous conditions- why are you blaming us?”- There would be a lot of injured workers suffering from injuries with no health and safety rules in place.
As such the law imposes duties on each corporation or entity for their role.
Where the argument could have an impact is that the amount of damages each wrestler or athlete would be entitled to depending on how a Jury felt about the WWE’s several responsibility defense.
In the NFL case mentioned in the headline- the football player had one credited season for the Saints in the 1970s, he played in 9 games. He played four years in college and four years in high school. As he aged he began to experience serious neurological trouble, which medical experts related back to his football days. In August 2018 the NFL settlement determined he should receive $180,800 for damages he sustained in the nine games he played in.
What do you think a former WWE wrestler with head injuries should receive?
Kyros Law thinks the women and men we represent should get help from the WWE and that is why we helped them bring their case.