Sports Defamation Case Study: Ringside Doc v. WWE Champ

sports defamation case study: doctor v. wwe star
A sports defamation lawsuit has crash-landed into the world of the WWE.

A retired World Wrestling Entertainment (“WWE”) super star, CM Punk, is being sued by a ringside doctor named Christopher Amann. The two men became entangled in a sports defamation battle after Punk criticized Amann on a popular wrestling podcast. Who will most likely win this slander lawsuit? We’ll deconstruct the lawsuit below.

Who is CM Punk?

Phil “CM Punk” Brooks was the 6th most prolific WWE champion. His claim to fame – or shtick – was being a “straight edge wrestler.” Now, he’s a mixed martial arts athlete who recently signed with the UFC.

Since parting ways with the WWE, Punk has been an outspoken critic of the organization. Specifically, he’s lambasted the level of medical care offered.

Why is CM Punk involved in a Doctor Defamation Lawsuit?

Enter Doctor Christopher Amann. Since 2010, he’s been a ringside doctor for the WWE.

In November, CM Punk was a guest on “The Art of Wrestling” – Colt Cabana’s popular podcast. During the interview, Punk let loose about his feelings regarding the professional prowess of the WWE’s medical staff. Bloodyelbow.com paraphrases Punk’s comments in this way:

Punk claimed in the podcast that the doctor repeatedly misdiagnosed a large mass on his back, continuing to give him antibiotics to treat it instead of seeing it for what it was. When it started to grow, Punk stated that he eventually went to his wife’s doctor, who immediately diagnosed it as a staph infection and sent him to the hospital to get it cut it out. He said that he worked with the staph infection for three months and that he could have died from it. He also claimed that the doctor improperly treated him for concussions.

Dr. Amann isn’t thrilled with CM’s characterization and insists that:

“the duo’s statements were false, defamatory and put him in a false light by improperly insinuating ‘a lack of integrity … and/or inability or lack of competence to perform his professional duties as a medical doctor.’ ”

As recompense, Amann wants $1 million in punitive and actual damages.

What are the Doctor’s Chances of Winning This Sports Defamation Lawsuit?

To win defamation lawsuits in the United States, slander and libel plaintiffs must prove that:

  • The defendant spoke or published a false statement of fact about the plaintiff;
  • The defendant’s statement caused material or reputational harm to the plaintiff; and
  • The defendant acted with either negligence or actual malice.

In this instance, to win, Amann must prove that Punk’s assertions were a pack of lies; that he didn’t misdiagnose Punk’s ailment; that he didn’t improperly treat him for concussions. If the WWE medic can prove he correctly diagnosed Punk, Amann may be one step closer to winning this doctor defamation case.

But Amann has to clear another defamation obstacle – intent.

In this case, a judge will most likely deem both parties “public figures” since they are – or were – staples on the WWE circuit. As such, Amann will most likely have to prove actual malice. Meaning, he must provide evidence that Punk purposefully and knowingly lied with the express purpose of causing harm for Amann.

That means that if Punk can adequately convince a judge or jury that he truly believed his statements – even if they turn out to be untrue – he probably won’t be found liable for slander.

Amann, however, must have some evidentiary bullets stowed up his sleeve. After all, he’s opting to move forward with this suit, presumably after consulting a defamation attorney, who probably explained the strict standards of U.S. defamation law.

Consult with Kelly / Warner: We Handle Both Doctor Defamation and Sports Defamation Cases

Kelly / Warner is a top-rated defamation law firm. (To verify, please visit our Martindale.com page, Avvo.com profile and Yelp page.)

Our lawyers handle both sports defamation cases and doctor defamation cases. Over the years, we’ve successfully resolved situations for both slander and libel plaintiffs and defendants.

To speak with an attorney, get in touch here.

Sports Defamation Case: Retired NHL Player v. Blogging Ref

sports defamation attorneys
Will a retired NHL player win his defamation lawsuit against a ref-turned-blogger?

Retired NHL player Eric Lindros filed a sports defamation lawsuit, in Canadian court, against referee-cum-columnist Paul Stewart. Lindros isn’t impressed with a post penned by Stewart for the Huffington Post, and former power forward wants $250,000 in compensation.

Is Canadian defamation law on Lindros’ side? What about U.S. libel law? Let’s discuss.

Why Lindros Is Suing An NHL Referee For Libel

Stewart penned an online missive for the Huffington Post entitled “Hecklers, Hooligans and the Striped-Shirted Maitre D”. In it, Stewart waxed poetic about life as an NHL ref — commercial break banter and fan friendships.

Stewart also served up some behind-the-scenes gossip and dished on a few players, including the Steve Francis of professional hockey, Eric Lindros. Unabashed in his disdain for the former Flyer, Stewart says:

“Eric Lindros was a player I got off with on the wrong foot and we never developed a rapport because neither he nor I wanted one.”

Stewart goes on to recount:

“During the delay, I made small talk with several of the Devils and Flyers on the ice. I said hello to Mark Recchi and talked to Bernie Nicholls. I then tried to greet the 19-year-old rookie Lindros.

“‘Hey, Eric. How are things going? How’s your dad?’ I asked.

“The response: ‘[Bleep] you. Just drop the [bleeping] puck already.’

“Lindros was apparently in a bad mood because he’d recently missed 12 games with a knee injury, the team was in a losing skid, and he’d had a tough game in New Jersey. This game was also played about a week after Lindros had to go to court in Toronto after the Koo Koo Bananas incident. You know what? Those were his problems, not mine. But we were about to have a mutual problem.

“Right off the opening faceoff, Lindros bulled forward and drilled Nicholls under the chin with his stick. I ditched Lindros on a high-sticking penalty.

“Before the game, I had brought a tube filled with posters to Flyers’ equipment manager Jim “Turk” Evers. The posters, which depicted Recchi and Lindros, were to be autographed and then donated to a charity auction. I had done a similar thing in other cities, such as a Cam Neely and Ray Bourque poster in Boston, and a Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh.

“After the game, I went to Turk to collect the poster tube.

“‘Stewy, you’re not going to like this,’ Evers said. ‘I don’t have them.’

“‘What do you mean you don’t have them?’ I asked.

“‘Well, Rex signed the posters but when Eric found out they were for you, he tore every one of them up. I’m sorry about that.’

“I never spoke to Eric Lindros again.”

Lindros’ Sports Defamation Lawsuit

Lindros swears that Stewart is telling stick stories. Most notably, Lindros contends that:

  • He never cursed at Stewart during their first relayed encounter; and
  • The incident with the posters never happened.

So, Lindros filed a libel lawsuit. At first, he asked for a few million dollars but has since lowered that figure to $250,000.

Can Lindros Win This Case?

Will Lindros win? In Canada, he may have a shot.

Currently, Canada has the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the English-speaking world. In several regards, Canadian defamation law is the opposite of U.S. defamation law. Unlike American slander and libel plaintiffs, Canadian claimants don’t have to prove falsity, damages or intent. Moreover, Canadian slander and libel law operates on a “reverse onus” standard, meaning it’s the defendant’s responsibility to prove the statement was either:

  1. Fair Comment or Criticism;
  2. Truthful;
  3. Honest Reportage; or
  4. Innocent Dissemination.

In the Lindros sports defamation case, it may come down to whether or not Turk – the equipment manager who relayed the poster-ripping message — will testify to that fact. If he does, Stewart could emerge victorious in this case; if he doesn’t, Lindros, in theory, could win this sports defamation claim.

Would Lindros Win His Defamation Lawsuit In A U.S. Court?

What about in a U.S. court? Would Lindros’ chances be as good as they are in Canadian court? In a phrase: absolutely not.

Unlike Canadian slander and libel claimants, the majority of U.S. defamation plaintiffs must prove falsity, damages and some sort of negligence on the part of the defendant. Some American defamation plaintiffs don’t have to prove damages if the statements are deemed defamatory per se, meaning the communication is inherently damaging (i.e., calling someone a criminal). Though the majority of states do allow for defamatory per se claims, some don’t. To look up your states defamation laws, go here.

Since Stewart’s article appeared on Huffingtonpost.ca, Lindros also included Huffington Post, AOL Inc. and AOL Canada Inc. as defendants.

Further Reading And International Defamation Attorney Contact

For a quick reference chart that outlines the difference between Canadian and U.S. defamation law, go here. To read more about Canadian defamation standards, go here; for U.S, here.

Kelly / Warner has extensive experience with cross-border defamation lawsuits – particularly Internet defamation cases. In the past, we’ve successfully represented clients across the U.S. and Canada.

To speak with a sports defamation attorney, with international experience, get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law today.

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Sports Defamation Case: Pacquaio v. Mayweather

sports defamation case study: Pacquaio v. MayweatherManny Pacquaio sued Floyd Mayweather for defamation. Here’s a 1-minute summary of the sports defamation lawsuit.

Doping Allegations Lead To Lawsuit

During the lead-up to a 2010 match, Mayweather, his father, and his promotion company, Golden Boy Promotions, accused Pacquaio of using performance enhancing drugs.

In Pacquaio’s eyes, the accusations outstripped standard pre-bout trash talk. “Enough is enough,” he said. “These people…think it is a joke and a right to accuse someone wrongly of using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.”

Pacquaio, who vehemently denies ever using PEDs of any form, at any time — and has never tested positive for banned substances — filed a sports defamation lawsuit against Mayweather in December of 2009. He assured:

“I maintain and assure everyone that I have not used any form or kind of steroids. I don’t even know what steroids look like.”

Drinking and Partying Instead of Deposing

Eventually, Judge Larry Hicks ordered Mayweather to sit for deposition, but the boxer never did, citing an intense training schedule. Unfortunately for Mayweather, Team Pacquaio had photos of Mayweather:

“Busy living the ‘luxurious lifestyle non-stop,’ ‘pour[ing] champagne for [his] friends,’ and keeping the company of ‘attractive women,’ Mayweather refused to be deposed.”

In other words: Team Pacquiao accused Mayweather of lying about his whereabouts to avoid the deposition.

Judge Hicks wasn’t impressed and ordered Mayweather to pay $113,518.50 in court costs and Pacquaio’s attorney fees.

How Did The  Pacquaio v. Mayweather Sports Defamation Case End?

Like most high-profile defamation lawsuits, this one came to a settlement close. The last word on the matter came from Mayweather’s attorneys:

“The matter has been resolved. Any alleged terms of the resolution would be strictly confidential. Floyd Mayweather Sr. is very happy that this lengthy case has finally come to a conclusion.”

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