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THE LATEST IN THE CM PUNK-COLT CABANA LAWSUIT BROUGHT AGAINST THEM BY WWE'S DR. CHRIS AMANN

By Mike Johnson on 2015-08-31 14:08:07

Since WWE Doctor Chris Amann filed a lawsuit against former WWE champion Phil "CM Punk" Brooks and his long-time friend Colt Cabana based on the November 2014 "Art of Wrestling" podcast where Punk, free and clear of his WWE contract, railed against the company and told his side of the circumstances that led to him walking away from professional wrestling in January 2014, it's been mostly quiet as the two sides battle it out on the legal front.

 

PWInsider.com has acquired a number of filings in the case that serve to fill in the pencil sketches of what we know about the lawsuit as well as the responses Punk and Cabana (Note: as often as possible, I am using their wrestling names here for simplicity) filed with The Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.

In his initial filing against Punk and Cabana, Amann used a number of transcripts from the podcast in question to build a  case that they were attacking him and impugning his standing as a medical professional.  Amann responded that at no point, was he asked by Punk to treat/or excise a lump in Punk's back.  He also claimed that Punk never even showed him the lump in question for diagnosis or treatment.    He also claimed that he never prescribed Punk antibiotics for "a lump in his back, broken ribs or concussion."

Amann claimed that Punk and Cabana's comments against him were "false and defamatory" and that they were magnified by all the coverage the podcast received online.  He claims they knowingly "fabricated" the statements, published statements with negligence, that Cabana and Punk failed to "investigate the veracity" of the statements.  Amann claimed he suffered injury to his reputation as a doctor. 

Amann, as previously noted, is suing for $1,000,000 in damages, plus additional punitive damages.

In April 2015, attorneys for Punk and Cabana filed motions referring to the lawsuit as a "vindictive and deeply misguided attempt to impose a heavy cost at legally-protected speech."   The filing described Amann's lawsuit as "seeking to punish a former wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., who expressed some critical opinions about WWE and his past experiences with that company."

In attempting to get the case thrown out, the Motion noted the following in regard to Amann's claims against CM Punk:

*Amann's claims against Punk were "legally deficient" because "the challenged statements" do not refer to Amann by name and that the "complaint relies upon extrinsic "facts" to try and connect Plaintiff to the unidentified individuals and groups referenced in the statements about which the Plaintiff complains." 

Basically, the claim is that Amann was taking references to him (that he did not consider to be harmful, based on the filing) to connect the dots to statements made that in his mind, were harmful and about him in particular.  Since there has to be a clear line of A to B, Punk's attorneys are claiming Amann can't prove such in an attempt to have it thrown out.

*Amann's claims of defamation against him are also "legally deficient" because the statements are "reasonably capable of being interpreted as referring to a person or persons other than the Plaintiff." 

In layman's terms, the comments made could have been about anyone, not just Amann in particular.

*The claims of defamation "when considered, as they must be, within the context of the entire interview in question - can be reasonably construed as reflecting Brooks' intention to share his subjective views, interpretations and theories regarding his experiences, not to defame Plaintiff."

*Amann's claims "fail as a matter of law" because what is being challenged are Punk's expressions of opinion under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. "Brooks' colorful, figurative, rhetorical and/or hyperbolic language, and his subjective views, interpretations and theories regarding the matters he was addressing are non-actionable opinions protected by the First Amendment."

In the case brought against Cabana, motions filed noted:

*The Plaintiff fails to state valid causes of claims against Cabana.

*The claims brought against Cabana are non-actionable because they are based on opinions made by Cabana responding to the material Punk was discussing.

*The conclusory statements in Amann's allegations do not meet the standards to claim Cabana acted with actual malice.

*Cabana, in his role as interviewer on "Art of Wrestling" is protected legally by "neutral reporting privilege."  Cabana "interviews public figures and addresses issues of public concern about professional wrestling." 

The filing noted the Podcast at issue was "itself newsworthy" and that "there is no factual basis in the Complaint for a conclusion that Cabana deliberately distorted Brooks' statements when he interviewed Brooks and made the podcast available for listeners" and noted that at times during the podcast, "challenges or disagrees" with Brooks' statements.

*Should the court rule that Amann actually HAS sufficient cause to plead actual malice", that the court then dismiss the case because Amann, in his public role as a "Senior Ringside Physician" (and playing that role on WWE programming) "is, at minimum, a limited purpose public figure (if not a general purpose public figure)." 

So, the argument is that Amann is in the public eye, at least in the mind of those familiar with professional wrestling, so he should be seen in the court as a public figure.  Therefore, how his privacy could be invaded would change, since by becoming a public persona, he has given up some of his right to privacy.

The filing also noted that Amann is involved in the "controversial" WWE Wellness Policy program, one of the subjects that Cabana and Punk were discussing on "Art of Wrestling."   

The filing also noted that Amann's name is only mentioned twice over the course of the podcast, and that was in the same sentence, which is not included in Amann's allegations against Punk and Cabana.  It is also noted that the sentence in question mentioning Amann "does not form the basis (in whole or in part) for Amann's actions against the pair. 

The filing does note that the term "Doc" is used eight times over the course of the Podcast, but that term is never used in connection to Amann, nor do Punk and/or Cabana make any statements to connect Amann to "Doc" in those references. 

The filing also cites that Amann's complaint against them "improperly opines" that a "reasonable listener" could have identified Amann as "Doc" because he was named as the doctor on duty at ringside at the 2014 Royal Rumble, but that is a speculative inference and "improper" in the context of a defamation claim.

The filing also noted that Amann is claiming the podcast caused him professional harm because of the terms "Doc", "They" and "They're", yet he retained his position as WWE's Senior Ringside Physician, so he has no facts to support his claims.

On 7/20, the motions were denied (as of this writing, PWInsider is not able to determine why) and the presiding Judge instead ordered the two sides to go into the Discovery phase, which could take up to 28 months, which means (if they don't settle) it may not go to trial under sometime in late 2017.

Attorneys for Punk and Cabana filed new motions detailing their defense on 8/24.  PWInsider.com is in the process of acquiring those documents. 

So, that is where things stand.

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