Sports Defamation Case Study: Ringside Doc v. WWE Champ
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 befall 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 nor improperly treat him for concussions. If the WWE medic can prove he correctly diagnosed Punk, Amann may win 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 Doctor Defamation and Sports Defamation Cases
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.
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