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Judge throws out lawsuit by ex-wrestlers over concussions

September 19, 2018

FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2015, file photo, former professional wrestler Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka leaves Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, Pa. On Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, a federal judge in Connecticut dismissed a 2016 lawsuit by 60 former wrestlers, including Snuka, who claimed World Wrestling Entertainment failed to protect them from concussions that led to long-term brain damage. (Michael Kubel/The Morning Call via AP, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal judge in Connecticut has dismissed a lawsuit by 60 former professional wrestlers, many of them stars in the 1980s and 1990s, who claimed World Wrestling Entertainment failed to protect them from repeated head trauma including concussions that led to long-term brain damage.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant in Hartford threw out the lawsuit Monday, saying many of the claims were frivolous or filed after the statute of limitations expired. Stamford-based WWE denied the lawsuit’s allegations.

Bryant also criticized the wrestlers’ lawyer, Konstantine Kyros, based in Hingham, Massachusetts, 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.

Kyros strongly disagreed with Bryant’s ruling and vowed to appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. He said the allegations were not frivolous and Bryant was wrong about the claims being filed too late, because many wrestlers’ ailments — including dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE — were diagnosed years after they left the ring or after they died.

“I stand for professional wrestlers who face the prospect of losing their identity and consciousness to the effects of a latent occupational disease that robs them of their sanity, comfort of their families and memories of everything they achieved entertaining the millions of people who love them,” Kyros wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

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 CTE after their deaths, Kyros said. Other plaintiffs have dementia and other illnesses.

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. Bryant, however, said there was no evidence that WWE knew that concussions or head blows during wrestling matches caused CTE.

Unlike other sports including football and hockey where players have suffered similar injuries, WWE matches involve specific 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 suit against the NHL is pending.

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