Over $800 Million in Verdicts and Recoveries
Deal approved in WWF case
Dan Margolies
The Kansas City Star
11/08/2000

An $18 million settlement between the family of deceased professional wrestler Owen Hart and the World Wrestling Federation was approved Tuesday by a state court judge.

The settlement ends a lawsuit brought by Hart's widow, two minor children and parents against the WWF, the city of Kansas City and other defendants over a botched stunt that led to Hart's death in Kemper Arena in May 1999.

The terms of the settlement call for Martha Hart, Hart's widow, to get $10 million; the children,8-year-old Oje Hart and 5-year-old Athena Hart, to get $3 million each; and Hart's parents, Stu and Helen Hart, to get $1 million each.

Net of attorney fees and expenses, the total settlement amount comes to about $13 million. The fee agreement of the Hart family's attorneys, the Kansas City law firm of Robb & Robb LLC and the Calgary, Alberta firm of Pipella & Co., calls for them to receive a 25 percent contingency fee. The family's legal expenses are thought to have totaled about $750,000.

The settlement amount is being paid by the World Wrestling Federation and its insurer, TIG Insurance Co. The WWF, a publicly held company, said in regulatory filings last week that it would take a $7 million charge in the wake of the settlement amount from the companies that manufactured and sold the equipment involved in the accident.

Circuit Judge Douglas Long Jr. approved the settlement after an hour-long hearing in the Jackson County Courthouse. Martha Hart, her children and her in-laws all residents of Calgary, were present at the hearing, along with more than a dozen lawyers representing the plaintiffs and defendants.

After Long announced his approval of the settlement, Martha Hart sobbed quietly as Gary Robb, one of her attorneys, sought to comfort her. The two later embraced.

Hart , a 34-year-old wrestler known as the Blue Blazer, plunged 78 feet to his death on May 23, 1999, when the quick-release mechanism on his harness opened prematurely as he was being lowered from a catwalk into the ring.

The WWF event was televised live on pay-per-view television, although the accident itself was not shown.

The Hart family sued three weeks after the accident, alleging that the stunt was dangerous and poorly planned and that the harness system was defective.

Besides the WWF and the City of Kansas City, the settlement agreement also ends the Hart family's litigation against WWF principals Vince and Linda McMahon and stunt riggers Bobby Talbert and Matthew Allmen.

Long approved the settlement over the objection of the manufacturer of Hart's trigger-latch shackle, Lewmar Inc., which argued that the settlement could impair its ability to defend itself against the WWF's claims for reimbursement.

Both Lewmar and Amspec Inc., which sold the shackle to Hart's stunt rigger, were among the defendants originally sued by the Hart family. The family, however, dismissed both companies from the case in April.

The dismissals came after Lewmar and Amspec reached settlements with the Hart family calling for a mutual release of claims. Notably, the settlement's did not call for Lewmar or Amspec to pay any damages.

In court documents, the WWF has questioned whether those settlements were reached in good faith, and Long has yet to approve them. The WWF is concerned that the settlements will prevent it from recouping the settlement proceeds from Amspec and Lewmar.

"We're pleased that the Hart family is able to put this behind them, but we look forward to continuing this litigation so as to place responsibility on the appropriate parties," said Craig O'Dear, an attorney for the WWF, after Tuesday's hearing.

An additional impediment to the WWF's efforts to recover the $18 million arose Monday, when Amspec filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Van Nuys, Calif. The bankruptcy petition lists the WWF and the McMahons as contingent creditors.




« Back to News & Media

The firm's lawyers are proud to be members of:
Telephone: 816-474-8080
Facsimile: 816-474-8081
TollFree: 1-800-474-1339
Nationwide practice in states including:
Alabama
Arkansas
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Illinois
Iowa
Kentucky
Minnesota
Missouri
Nebraska
Nevada
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Tennessee
Wisconsin

Personal Injury Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Personal injury is an area of law that pertains to the injury of an individual. Both physical and emotional injuries fall into this branch of tort law. A personal injury lawyer is generally involved in cases where an injury has occurred due to the negligence of another party.

Examples of cases that a personal injury lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri can assist with include workplace accidents, falling or other accidents in the home, premises liability, defective and hazardous product cases, and dental and medical malpractice cases. If negligence on behalf of another party can be proved in court, compensation may be awarded.

Personal injury attorneys can also assist with industrial disease cases that may include respiratory diseases or a decline in health due to hazardous occupational conditions. These and other medical cases are often very complex, and it is advised that all aspects of the claim be handled by an experienced attorney.

Wrongful Death Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Wrongful death falls under the common law jurisdictions wherein a person may be held liable for a death. It is important to note that wrongful death is the only course of legal action in which a company, rather than an individual, is at fault for a death.

In Kansas City, Missouri, cases involving wrongful death accidents require a preponderance of evidence as the standard of proof. Generally, the suit is filed by close relatives.

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Robb & Robb LLC One Kansas City Place, Suite 3900 - 1200 Main Street , Kansas City , Missouri 64105

Telephone: 816-474-8080 Facsimile: 816-474-8081 Toll Free: 1-800-474-1339