Two former professional wrestlers, Vito LoGrasso and Evan Singleton, have recently filed a lawsuit against WWE in federal court in Philadelphia for repeated concussions sustained while wrestling for the company. While it may seem obvious that you can get a concussion from getting hit in the head with a folding chair, at the heart of lawsuit is the allegation that WWE encouraged wrestling when it knew or should have known that concussions or injuries had occurred. This is not the first lawsuit of this kind--former professional wrestler William Albert Haynes filed suit against WWE in federal court in Oregon in 2014 for similar injuries--but it could be a bellwether for things to come. As the NFL has learned through recent concussion litigation, which has resulted in a preliminary settlement of $765M, the time to profit off players' injuries with impunity has passed. Maybe it's now time for professional wrestling to get real, and accept some responsibility for its wrestlers' injuries.
The Oregonian published a brief article entitled "Clackamas County Jail inmate on work detail slips while stripping floor, sues county for $250,000" on oregonlive.com yesterday. The article, written by reporter Steven Mayes, is straightforward enough: a former inmate sues the county for negligence, alleging, among other things, he was injured after a deputy instructed him to do work, despite a warning that it wasn't safe. Predictably, many of the article's comments expressed outrage that a "criminal" could sue for injuries received in jail. What these comments, and this type of sentiment generally, often fail to acknowledge is that there's a big difference between filing a lawsuit and winning that lawsuit. At the complaint stage--the start of a lawsuit--we take everything the plaintiff says as true. Sorting out what's true and what the law says about this truth is the business of the courts. Consider the alternative for a moment. Imagine that a jail inmate awaiting trial for a crime of which he is presumed innocent could be forced to work despite dangerous conditions known by jail staff. The dangerous conditions then cause serious permanent injuries to the inmate as expected. Finally, those who caused the inmate's injuries didn't have to answer to anyone for the harms they caused, leaving the inmate without recourse to any compensation. Our system is not perfect, but the alternative is no solution. This is why I say that nobody should be forced to work in dangerous conditions.