Injury Lawsuit Filed Against WWE Over Pyrotechnics
In April of 2022, the Plaintiff Marvin Jackson attended WrestleMania 38. He alleges that his hearing was damaged by the loud pyrotechnics at the event and has sued the WWE to recover for the alleged injuries caused. He filed a lawsuit against the company in January in the District Court of Tarrant County, Texas. Early in the litigation, the parties have been disputing whether the case must be sent to binding arbitration or whether it can be litigated in court.
The Plaintiff filed the lawsuit on the basis of a premises liability theory. He argues that he was an invitee and while he was on the premises, he was injured by excessively loud pyrotechnics which has allegedly damaged his hearing and quality of life. The suit alleges that the Plaintiff lost his hearing in his left ear due to a pyrotechnic blast that was part of the WrestleMania show.
According to reports, the lawsuit, in part, alleges that the pyrotechnics were “abnormally dangerous” and “due to the proximity of the pyrotechnics to the invitees, the indoor nature of the display, and the inherent danger of pyrotechnics, the degree of risk of harm to invitees was particularly high at WrestleMania 38.” The Plaintiff is seeking more than $1 million in damages.
In response, the WWE has filed an early motion with the court to move the case into arbitration. This is based on the fact that when selling tickets to their events, users agree to terms and conditions which includes binding arbitration for disputes. The Plaintiff has argued that these tickets were a gift, so this specific individual never agreed to the terms and conditions.
Website terms and conditions that contain binding arbitration are usually enforceable and there is a long line of Supreme Court cases holding such. For example, AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011) and American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 570 U.S. 228 (2013) both held these types of arbitration clauses to be enforceable and the courts generally have a liberal policy favoring arbitration agreements.
If the case goes into arbitration, it does not mean that the WWE is not liable for the injuries allegedly caused. That decision will be made by an arbitration in accordance with the rules of arbitration and whatever specifically was contained in the terms of conditions that may govern that arbitration process. A standard liability analysis should apply based on premises liability of a business invitee. Depending on which state laws apply, business invitees are people who are on the property for business reasons, such as a customer. The owner of the business has a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of business invitees. This may even involve a duty to provide adequate warnings. It remains to be seen how the facts will play out in the WWE lawsuit but for now, the parties first need to determine whether they will be in court or arbitration.
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Dennis P. Sawan
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Christopher A. Sawan
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