On Tuesday's episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast, Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman sat down with longtime WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt after WWE's recent victory in the CTE lawsuits brought against them. McDevitt went through the history of the lawsuits brought to WWE by attorney Konstantine Kyros.
"Well in the beginning, we noticed prior to October of 2014, this Kyros fellow was advertising on the internet and soliciting former wrestlers to contact him to bring lawsuits that would be patterned after the cases that had been brought against the NFL, which if you remember, resulted in the NFL agreeing to pay a billion dollars plus end up settling," McDevitt recalled. "And when they did that, they kind of emboldened a lot of the plaintiffs, class action lawyers and what not to sue anybody that had any kind of history with head trauma, concussions or things of that nature. And so they did.
"They brought lawsuits against college football teams in the NCAA and high school teams, water polo. You name it, and Kyros' solicitations suggested in his website suggested, incorrectly we believe, that he had somehow been involved in obtaining the settlement for the NFL players and would be able to replicate that if only these wrestlers would agree to hire him so he could sue the WWE to get the same amount of money and the same thing for the former wrestlers. So he was basically soliciting them with promises of there's nothing to lose.
"You can get money out of this, and I'll take a contingent fee of what I get, but it won't cost you anything, and he actually went out on radio shows and stuff and podcasts and was making statements to the effect that well, the more people that sign up, the more pressure we can bring on WWE to settle these cases and pay us a lot of money. And we know he had told these people that he would be able to use this litigation to renegotiate contracts that were expired long ago and get them better royalties and a bunch of nonsense frankly."
McDevitt continued discussing the other lawsuits brought against WWE by multiple individuals. All concussion-related lawsuits were dismissed by the courts in 2018.
"And I feel bad that he misled so many people because he did, and eventually, Billy Jack Haynes, a sort of a known sociopath frankly, became the first person to sign up for this and brought a lawsuit out in Washington in October of 2014," McDevitt said. "That was his first class action case, and then, in short order, after that, Vito Legrasso and a kid by the name of Evan Singleton, who was down in the Performance Center, they brought a second case in the eastern district of Pennsylvania. Then there was a third class action case brought out in California by Ross McCullough and two other ex-performers.
"Then there was a case brought in Tennessee on behalf of some girl who was Doink's girlfriend or something like that for his wrongful death, and then the widow of Mabel, Nelson Frazier, brought a wrongful death case down in Tennessee. And so all those cases, we basically had transferred up to Connecticut because they all had contracts that said litigation would proceed in Connecticut. And then after that was done, then Kyros brought in another lawsuit on behalf of 50 or 60 people who signed up in a so-called mass action complaint with Joe Laurinitis being the lead plaintiff in that case, and 60 other people or however many there were signed up to be the plaintiffs in that case all making these sort of claims about alleged brain injuries, CTE and all the rest of this kind of stuff.
"And in the last case, in the Laurinitis case, he tried to throw in these claims for more money and royalties and a bunch of nonsense stuff like that. And so that's what basically happened, and we, unlike the NFL, decided we were not going to pay anything and we're going to contest these claims because we knew what they were basically."
Hausman asked McDevitt what helped WWE win these cases. McDevitt noted that the state of Connecticut has a statue of limitations law that helped in WWE's favor, as some of the cases would not have been allowed under the Nixon and Carter administrations.
"Well, Connecticut has a statute of limitations, among other things, that says that you have three years from, in the words of the statute, 'the act or omission complained of to bring a lawsuit for injuries,' and so if the act or omission complained of is getting hit on the head causing concussions or CTE or whatnot to the extent you're trying to blame somebody for that, you have three years from the time that that happened to bring a lawsuit," McDevitt explained. "And some of these people, particularly the ones in the Laurinitis case, I mean there was, I can't remember his name, but his claims would have been time barred under the statute during the administration of Richard Nixon.
"Others would have been barred during the time when Jimmy Carter was the president. So these claims were really old and stale. Beyond that, there was nothing that would indicate that the WWE had done anything wrong or had ever concealed anything from anybody. The evidence is pretty clear.
McDevitt said that the first time there was any indication of CTE in pro wrestling was with Chris Benoit. He pointed out that this was in 2007 and that there shouldn't be lawsuits brought seven or nine years later as there was time before then to bring in a lawsuit. He also pointed out that some of the individuals involved have either worked in other companies outside of WWE or only worked for WWE for a short amount of time.
"It's unfortunate, but it's clear that the first time that there was any indication of CTE having anything in professional wrestling was in the case of Chris Benoit, and with the publicity that occurred with Chris Benoit, it's not even plausible for anybody in the wrestling business, especially wrestlers and especially people who knew Chris Benoit to say that they were not aware of the fact that Chris Benoit had been diagnosed with CTE supposedly and that had been associated with head trauma," McDevitt said." And that occurred in 2007 so by 2007, there's not anybody in the wrestling business who can plausibly say they didn't know about the Benoit findings.
"If you did have any kind of symptoms or whatnot, you shouldn't have been waiting until 2014 or 2016 to be bringing a lawsuit, and most of these people, to be honest with you Nick, although there are some exceptions, most of these people didn't even perform solely for WWE or even long for WWE. There are people here in these class of people that had nothing more than a cup of coffee with the WWE and were gone there after."
McDevitt used an example of an individual who claimed that a concussion disabled him to the point that he could not drive a car. However, the person could be seen on Instagram dead lifting and competing in World Strongman competitions.
"So it was just a money grab, and other ones, Evan Singleton for example, you can go online, type his name in Instagram, this is a guy who was claiming that he was totally disabled. Couldn't drive a car, couldn't do anything as a result of a single concussion that he got when he was performing down in the Performance Center. Yet you can find pictures of him online dead lifting 800 pounds and competing in World Strongman contests," McDevitt revealed. "He's one of the strongest men in the world competing in athletics while he's filing lawsuits in court saying he's totally disabled and can't even drive a car. This kind of stuff, and all of this was exposed to the judge."
McDevitt also said that Kyros "basically plagiarized" from the NFL lawsuit, replacing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's name with a WWE representative. He said that after the sanction orders, Kyros is now required to pay WWE "hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees."
"Kyros got caught in the last lawsuit basically plagiarizing from the lawsuit of the NFL allegations, the allegations that were made against the NFL that resulted in the case being successful against them where the NFL, unlike the WWE, had made various public statements and actually published articles in scientific literature and magazines and whatnot sort of downplaying, if you will the effects of concussions," McDevitt explained. "And Roger Goodell had allegedly made various statements that were alleged in the complaint against the NFL. All Kyros did was he gets ahold of the NFL complaint, and he literally just changes where the complaint would say, 'Roger Goodell said the following, concussions don't cause any long-term damage, and it's safe to go back to work on a day you get a concussion.' He would just change that to say a WWE representative had said that.
"Just flat-out make up false things like that. The kind of stuff lawyers don't do, and we brought that to the court's attention and multiple other violations of his. And he was as a result of his misconduct, sanctioned three different times by the federal judge up there that had control of the case. And is now facing sanctions orders of what we say is going to make him required to pay us hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees."
Hausman asked if Kyros has the ability to pay the amount he is required to pay. McDevitt admitted he's not sure as Kyros is working out of his house in Massachusetts. McDevitt has said that Kryos "should be disbarred," and he noted that the reputable lawyers that teamed up with Kyros left as soon as Kyros was getting sanctioned.
"Well, who knows? I know he practices out of his house," McDevitt stated. "I mean you can find people on the internet like Billy Jack Haynes and some of the early people that he talked to that are espousing, what I gather he must have told them, that he was this big-time lawyer who brought the NFL to its knees and got them all that money, and he was going to do the same to WWE and the rest of that, but the reality of it is, I think he practices out of his house in Massachusetts.
"I don't think he has an office in Massachusetts, but I think what he's done is he's spent a career sort of drumming up litigation by these kind of techniques, and then he typically gets other lawyers to jump in the case and actually do the litigating for him and that's what he did here. And when he originally filed these cases, there were something like, I don't know, five or six other law firms jumped in thinking, oh, this was going to be a good thing to be involved in on the plaintiff side of the case.
"But then as we started exposing more of what was going on, by the time the case was over and it got thrown out and he was getting sanctioned, they were jumping off the ship as fast as you could and bailing out saying they didn't want anything more to do with the case. So that by the time we got to the appeal, Kyros was pretty much standing alone. None of the original law firms stayed with him and said, ' we don't want any more to do with this case.' It tells you something that the reputable lawyers got out of the case."
McDevitt's full interview aired as part of today's episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.