WWE Becomes Latest Sports League to Face Concussion Litigation
On Thursday, October 23, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment was added to the growing list of sports organizations facing concussion related litigation. William Albert Haynes III, a former WWE wrestler, brought suit against the corporation with allegations similar to many other concussion lawsuits: that the WWE concealed and denied the medical research showing the effects of head trauma.
Haynes, known by his stage name “Billy Jack Haynes,” makes claims that follow most other concussion lawsuits claiming negligent misrepresentation, negligence, and liability for abnormally dangerous activities. The lawsuit accuses the WWE of encouraging steroid and cocaine use to promote a culture of violence, which it packaged and sold for its own benefit. In his papers, Haynes references the continued use of steel chairs, other foreign objects, and particular wrestling moves that are often directed toward wrestler’s head, incorporating a photo of WWE owner, Vince McMahon, hitting a wrestler in the head with a steel chair.
Haynes only wrestled in the WWE for two years in the late 1980’s, but claims to have suffered serious injuries during that time. The wrestler’s personal injuries include 15 concussions, hepatitis C, and symptoms of depression and dementia. Haynes will be seeking class certification as these injuries have plagued WWE wrestlers for years. The lawsuit references the long history of WWE wrestlers who have suffered debilitating injuries and died young due to brain trauma. In particular, Haynes mentions Chris Benoit, a former wrestler who murdered his family before killing himself. The subsequent medical exam showed that Benoit suffered from CTE and had the brain of an 85 year old Alzheimer’s patient.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages in addition to relief similar to that afforded in the NFL settlement. Haynes wants medical monitoring of wrestlers’ medical conditions and a trust fund set up with WWE money to handle treatment of injured wrestlers.