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WWE Lawsuit Update: Raven and Wrestlers File Response to WWE’s Motion to Dismiss

Posted in Class Actions, Litigation, Wage & Hour

Many weeks after the WWE filed its motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by three former WWE wrestlers ("Raven" and "Kanyon" and others — otherwise known as Scott Levy, Chris Klucsartis and Michael Sanders ), the wrestlers have fired back filing their papers opposing WWE’s motion.  (For full coverage of this lawsuit, click here.) 

The papers, filed late Wednesday afternoon, are available for download here.  There aren’t, as some much have hoped for, any more source documents attached to it (such as the wrestlers contracts that were attached to WWE’s original motion) so readers will just have to make do with legal arguments.see prior posts for credit -

For those following the matter, the opposition papers use much of the same theory that was advanced in the complaint — that the WWE is pure entertainment, not sport, and the WWE controls everything about it.

Specifically, the wrestlers claim that the WWE exercises:

virtually complete dominion and control over its wrestlers — determining when and where the wrestlers will perform, where and how they will train, scripting the fight and wrestlers’ pre- and post-fight interviews, controlling the wrestlers’ costumes, props and personas and pre-ordaining the results of each fight.

The wrestlers argue that the court should look to the specifics of the relationship, not the contracts themselves.  They contrast themselves with professional boxers, an interesting comparison.   Moreover, they argue that its too early for the court to decide the issues — and that the case should proceed with discovery (in other words, each party asking the other party questions and for certain documents). 

Interestingly, the wrestlers also bring up the fact that in 2001 WWE argued that a former wrestler (Nicole Bass) should be barred from bringing certain claims because she was an employee, not an independent contractor — the reverse position argued here.   

However, the wrestlers highlight an interview given to a British newspaper in August 2008 about the case that suggests a bit more complicated of a picture. While the result is the same — she was treated as an employee, not an independent contractor, it appears the WWE argued that she was not an employee. 

In the interview, K&L Gates attorney Jerry McDevitt noted that the only time WWE litigated the issue – it actually lost on the legal argument (though ultimately prevailed in the case on other grounds).

The independent contractor v employee situation has only come up once before in litigation in the long history of the WWE, when they were sued for sexual harassment by former female wrestler Nicole Bass.

Jerry reveals: “The sexual harassment laws, of the United States at least, are purposely designed to protect employees and do not extend to independent contractors.

“However the interpretation given under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which covers sexual harassment is very broad, as it wants to include in it as many people as possible.So a preliminary issue that came up was whether she was an employee, for Title VII purposes, or an independent contractor. 

She was determined to be an employee.

As I’ve often said, you can’t do complete justice to an argument in a short post, so review it for yourself to get a complete picture.

The WWE will now have 10 days to file a reply to this, if it wishes (and I can’t imagine that it will leave this argument unchallenged). After that, the court will rule on the motion. Don’t expect a decision overnight, however. It is likely that a decision won’t be forthcoming for at least 2-3 months.

  • Saul

    I used to watch wrestling when I was younger. But from what I’ve read about it in the recent, there’s a wild west environment in their industry.
    They’ve gotten away with the bogus contracts the same way they’ve gotten away with being a traveling circus of drug addicts for 20 years: even acknowledging the WWE exists is beneath thinking human beings, especially in a court of law. Any lawyer, or judge or politician would be the laughing stock of his field for merely suggesting “We need to look into what Vince McMahon is doing.” It’s how the company got away with buying out all their competitors to become a scripted monopoly, and how their cast are the most obvious drug abusers on the planet, with numerous cast members dropping dead before 40 and one guy even killing his entire family.
    Any other sport or entertainment endeavor with the WWE’s history would have been put out of business or regulated years ago. Congress jumped at the chance to try to pry some lurid detail out of ex-baseball players because they’re all unabashed fan boys, but if there are any wrestling fan congressmen, they’d never admit it publicly. They’d go easy on WWE executives just to rush them out of there before the media laughs at them wasting time.
    From what I’ve seen, the cast members deserve to win this case, but will they be taken seriously by anybody? I’m sure the WWE can afford amazing attorneys and the court will be reminded the plaintiffs are men in their 40s who squeeze into tight speedos to pretend-fight for a living. The judge who gets the case is going to be doing a lot of eye rolling, snarky comments and giggling, I’m sure. If any of the guys demand to be acknowledged under their wrestling name like “Rabid Rex” or “Dan Destroyer” their case is over.

  • http://myspace.com/tjelnumerounodj Travis

    I love the WWE, but the lengths it is going to recently in order to try and win this case is a slap in the face to the men and women who made wrestling what it is today. Vince McMahon loves money, and by now referring to wrestler’s as entertainers, to try and save face with this lawsuit, even seems disrespectful to me, a longtime WWE fan. I’ve been a fan since 1989, and I think Vince needs to treat his guys as employees. If WWE were to do it, TNA, ROH, CZW, NWA, and any other wrestling promotion in the U.S. would have to do the same. At which point Vince could buy every company, and have them all operate under his umbrella. Thus making all North American Wrestling Footage available via WWE 24/7, or Classics on Demand on the internet.
    Vince man up, and take care of those who make you million’s, and sometimes billions of dollars.

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