United States District Judge Vanessa Bryant dismissed two wrongful death cases against WWE yesterday, initially filed by Michelle James and Cassandra Frazier on behalf of Matt Osborne and Cassandra Frazier respectively.
Matt Osborne, known to millions of wrestling fans as Doink the Clown and “Maniac” Matt Osborne, passed away on June 28th 2013 from an accidental opiate overdose at 55-years old.
Nelson Frazier, who appeared as various wrestling personalities including Mabel, Viscera, and Big Daddy V, passed away at just 42-years old from a heart attack on February 18, 2014.
Both cases claimed the former WWE Superstars suffered brain damage while working for the entertainment conglomerate that subsequently lead to their untimely deaths. It’s important to note that neither wrestler had their brain examined postmortem to scan for CTE symptoms. Frazier’s body was immediately cremated following his passing, making any necessary testing impossible.
Judge Bryant ruled Michelle James, Matt Osborne’s girlfriend, didn’t provide enough evidence that Osborne suffered from CTE or that CTE would even lead to the overdose that killed him. She also ruled that James couldn’t legally file a wrongful death action against anyone, as she’s not an administrator nor executor of Osborne’s estate. It was suggested James re-file the claim with a member of Osborne’s family, but Judge Bryant warned that the case would be futile because attorney’s haven’t plead a plausible cause of action.
The wrongful death case filed by Cassandra Frazier was dismissed due to her failure to allege a plausible link between the early death of her husband and wrongful acts perpetrated by World Wrestling Entertainment. Bryant said Frazier failed to establish any link between her husband’s heart failure and a potential case of CTE. As far as the claim Frazier could have survived a heart attack had he not suffered from CTE, Judge Bryant said it was “another bald and baseless allegation, which the court deems unworthy of the barest measure of credibility.”
Judge Bryant noted that both claims stated the wrestlers’ deaths could be a result of CTE, but as previously noted, no official testing had been done. She said with no official diagnoses, it’s hard to allege that either man died of CTE-related injuries, much-less prove the case in a court of law.
WWE lobbied to take sanctions against opposing counsel Konstantine Kyros, for offering “false and misleading statements” that Judge Bryant herself deemed “highly unprofessional,” however the motion was ultimately denied. Bryant didn’t let Kyros off-the-hook completely however, writing: “The court admonishes Kyros and his co-counsel to adhere to the standards of professional conduct and to applicable rule and court orders lest they risk future sanctions or referral to the Disciplinary Committee of this court.”