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Brain damage lawsuit by 50 former WWE wrestlers dismissed in federal court

Among the plaintiffs, many stars from the 80s and 90s, were the late Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka and Harry Masayoshi Fujiwara, aka Mr. Fuji.

A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that had been filed by 50 former pro wrestlers, many of them stars in the 1980s and 1990s, who claimed World Wrestling Entertainment failed to protect them from repeated head injuries, including concussions that led to long-term brain damage.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City agreed with a federal judge in Connecticut who tossed the lawsuits two years ago, saying many of the claims were frivolous or filed after the statute of limitations expired. Stamford, Connecticut-based WWE denied the suit's allegations.

Among the plaintiffs were Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Joseph “Road Warrior Animal” Laurinaitis, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, Chris “King Kong Bundy” Pallies and Harry Masayoshi Fujiwara, known as Mr. Fuji.

Snuka and Fujiwara died in 2017 and 2016, respectively, and were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, after their deaths, according to their lawyer. Pallies died last year of undisclosed causes. Other plaintiffs have dementia and other illnesses, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, which also named WWE Chairman Vince McMahon as a defendant, said the organization knew the risks of head injuries but didn’t warn the wrestlers. U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant in Hartford, however, said there was no evidence that WWE knew that concussions or head blows during wrestling matches caused CTE.

Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka

The lawyer for the former wrestlers, Konstantine Kyros, based in Hingham, Massachusetts, called the ruling a “rubber stamp” of Bryant's decision and “utterly devoid of any original reasoning or engagement with the legal issues raised in the wrestlers' appeal.”

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“In its conclusory assertions the injured wrestlers find no justice having been literally denied a day in court,” Kyros wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Per this mandate wrestlers have no rights, no rights to bring a lawsuit, no rights to help from WWE for CTE & head injuries, no rights as misclassified employees, no rights to a jury, and ironically no right to even appeal!”

The 2nd Circuit on Wednesday also dismissed several similar lawsuits by former wrestlers against the WWE over head injuries, saying their appeals were filed too late.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2015, file photo, former professional wrestler Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka leaves Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, Pa. A federal appeals court on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, dismissed a lawsuit filed by 50 former professional wrestlers, including Snuka, who claimed World Wrestling Entertainment failed to protect them from repeated head trauma including concussions that led to long-term brain damage. (Michael Kubel/The Morning Call via AP, File)

The appeals court further dismissed Kyros' appeal of sanctions imposed on him by Bryant. In her 2018 ruling, Bryant criticized Kyros for repeatedly failing to comply with court rules and orders and ordered him to pay WWE’s legal fees, which could total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Unlike football and hockey, in which players have suffered similar injuries, WWE matches involve moves scripted and choreographed by the WWE, thus making the company directly responsible for wrestlers’ injuries, the lawsuit said.

The National Football League and National Hockey League were also sued by former players who suffered concussions and other head injuries. The NFL settled for $1 billion, while the NHL settled for $18.9 million.