– Representatives of Martha Hart issued the following press release this morning.
Widow of Deceased Professional Wrestler Owen Hart Files Lawsuit Against World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince McMahon & Linda McMahon
WWE continues to use Owen Hart’s Name and Image for Marketing more than 11 Years After he Was Killed in a WWE-sponsored Stunt; In Violation of Contract and Contrary to Family’s Wishes
HARTFORD, Conn., June 22 /PRNewswire/ — Martha Hart, the widow of the late Owen Hart, a professional wrestler who was killed in a May 1999 stunt orchestrated by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) today filed suit in the U.S. District Court here against WWE, Vince McMahon (current chairman and CEO) and Linda McMahon (CEO until 2009). The lawsuit alleges the WWE and the McMahons used Owen Hart’s name and likeness without right in dozens of commercial videos and other materials, violated a contract restricting the use of Owen Hart’s name, likeness and wrestling footage, and disregarded Martha Hart’s wishes against further association of her late husband’s name with WWE following his death. (Mrs. Hart and WWE settled a wrongful death lawsuit in 2000. Mrs. Hart established the Owen Hart Foundation later that year.)
“In the eleven years since Owen’s tragic and avoidable death, I have worked tirelessly to disassociate Owen’s name and likeness from anything related to WWE in order to protect our children from any reminder of the circumstances surrounding their father’s death, and to avoid any misplaced perception that I endorse WWE,” said Martha Hart in a statement.
“Unfortunately, even though WWE, Vince McMahon and Linda McMahon were and are well aware of my wishes and desire to shield my children from WWE and its activities, I was shocked to learn earlier this year that they have been using Owen’s name and likeness in videos, websites, television programs and print materials. Given this callous, insensitive and irresponsible behavior, one must question the moral character of Vince and Linda McMahon and the manner in which they conduct their business.”
According to the lawsuit filed today before the U.S. District Court in Hartford,
“Since Owen’s death, the WWE and McMahons have sought every available opportunity to further exploit Owen’s personality for their own commercial benefit. Their use of Owen’s name and likeness draws attention to the WWE’s ongoing violent and highly questionable theatrical activities that caused Owen’s death. Defendants’ use of Owen’s name and likeness is also in direct disregard of Martha’s and her children’s objections…The WWE’s wrongful use of Owen’s name and likeness, over Martha’s continuing objection to any association with defendants and in the absence of any legal right of use, creates the wrongful impression that Martha and the Estate now support, approve or condone the video (which they do not).”
The lawsuit seeks to enjoin the WWE from further use of Owen Hart’s name and likeness, and seeks unpaid royalties as well as damages for breach of contract, copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, accounting and unfair and deceptive trade practices.
Mrs. Hart is represented by the law firm Nixon Peabody LLP.
Note to Editors: A copy of the complaint can be found at www.marthahartsueswwe.com
Information on the Owen Hart Foundation can be found at www.owenhart.org