Linda McMahon’s WWE Invoked ‘Death Clause’ in Owen Hart Lawsuit — Then Made a Virtue Out of the Necessity of Its $18 Million Settlement

The headline over today’s piece by Ed Stannard in the New Haven Register is “Yale law prof disputes McMahon camp stance on ‘death clause’.” See http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2010/09/07/news/doc4c86be62d62e9475981222.txt.

The story notes that in a media conference call organized by the Connecticut Democratic Party, the professor, Robert Solomon, noted that, contrary to its representation to the Manchester Journal Inquirer, World Wrestling Entertainment, on at least one occasion, had  invoked the clause in its talent contracts releasing claims against the company even in the event of death caused by the promoter’s negligence. That occasion was WWE’s defense of the lawsuit by the estate of Owen Hart, who was killed during a stunt entrance at a show in Kansas City in 1999 when his defective harness broke. Hart’s widow and the company ultimately settled the dispute for $18 million.

The audio of the Democratic Party’s teleconference featuring Professor Solomon can be heard at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/democrats_yale_law_professor_debunk_mcmahon_campaigns_death_clause_claim/. In the course of his remarks, Solomon also makes the broader point that WWE’s claim that its performers are independent contractors is both specious and immoral.

For those of you who are skeptical of experts, Ivy League professors, or media events staged by political parties, I suggest that you turn to my posts of September 3 in reaction to Don Michak’s article in the Journal Inquirer:

* “Linda McMahon’s Defense of WWE Contract Death Clauses Is, ‘We Don’t Really Mean It’,” https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/linda-mcmahons-defense-of-wwe-contract-death-clauses-is-we-dont-really-mean-it/.

* “Linda McMahon & WWE Full of Bull in Response to Connecticut Newspaper ‘Death Clause’ Story,” https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/linda-mcmahon-wwe-full-of-bull-in-response-to-connecticut-newspaper-death-clause-story/.

Professor Solomon is right in observing that WWE’s multimillion-dollar settlement with the Hart estate doesn’t disprove that it initially invoked the death clause as a defense in that action. On the contrary, as Solomon says, it makes the company’s position on the death clause worse.

As someone who is not licensed to practice law and has never argued a case at a level higher than small claims court, I can help everyone out here by reducing the position of Linda McMahon’s corporate sugar daddy to its language-twisting essence. This Senate candidate and her underwriter are very good at making a virtue out of necessity — much better than they are at taking care of the health and welfare of their employees.

Irv Muchnick

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