Former WWE Star CM Punk Prevails In Defamation Suit
On Tuesday, June 4, 2018, a jury in Cook County Illinois, found that former WWE wrestlers CM Punk (Phillip Jack Brooks) and Colt Cabana (Scott Colton) were not liable for the 2015 defamation and false light case brought by WWE ringside physician Dr. Christopher Amann. Amann argued that he was a victim of defamation per se, based on Punk’s and Cabana’s comments in 2014 on Cabana’s podcast “The Art of Wrestling”.
After abruptly retiring from the WWE in 2013, Punk went on the podcast in part to explain to his fans his side of the story. Punk blamed Amann for misdiagnosing a large growth on Punk’s back that eventually was diagnosed by a non-WWE doctor as a life threatening MRSA staph infection. Additionally, Punk discussed Amann’s questionable treatment for other ailments such as concussions, describing how he was giving antibiotics for concussion like symptoms.
At trial, Amann and his lawyers argued that Punk’s statements constituted unlawful ridicule of Amann’s professional identity. Amann stressed that the two wrestlers large following further damaged his professional reputation, which lead to fans of the wrestlers disparaging Amann on Twitter and other social media sites. The size, severity and existence of the growth on Punk’s back was also disputed by Amann. Most importantly, Amann and his lawyers questioned whether Punk was truly diagnosed with the life threatening MRSA staph infection or if he had a less serious ordinary staph infection.
However, the jury was swayed by both of the wrestler’s testimonies and arguments. Punk delivered what was described as believable and persuasive testimony, attributing his remarks to “built up frustrations”. He also clarified his diagnosis and said he was not sure what type of staph infection he was diagnosed with. Punk said he was diagnosed by a physician’s assistant in Florida and forgot the exact diagnosis due to his unfamiliarity with medical terms. Additionally, his lawyer argued that the podcast was a conversation between two close friends which may have attributed to some of the discrepancies Amann and his team point out.
Amann hoped to win over 8 million dollars in damages from the suit. Specifically, Amann wanted 1 dollar for each stream of the podcast as compensatory damages, which equaled almost 4 million dollars. Nevertheless, the jury did not believe the comments during the podcast amounted to the level of defamation per se. The fact that Amann is still employed and highly regarded by the WWE was also a factor in the jury’s decision.