McMahon faces suit calling fatal stunt 'Reckless and depraved'
By RICK BELL -- Calgary Sun
KANSAS CITY -- Vince McMahon is in the fight of his life. And it is all very real.
At 9:01 a.m. yesterday, Calgary time, Martha, Stu and Helen Hart filed a 118-page wrongful death lawsuit against 13 defendants, charging unsafe equipment was used, no proper training was given and no special precautions were taken for the stunt ending the life of wrestler Owen Hart.
The suit -- being argued by Kansas City lawyer Gary C. Robb, who won $350 million US in a helicopter crash lawsuit -- also claims safety was consciously ignored so wilder stunts could be done to attract bigger pay TV and ticket dollars.
The suit calls the conduct of the defendants "wanton, willful, callous, reckless and depraved."
Owen's widow, Martha, made an impassioned plea before reporters. "Make no mistake. Wrestling is a show and it's fake. Professional wrestling has become a showy display of graphic violence and sexual themes and ever more dangerous stunts," said a tearful Martha.
"Owen has died and there is nothing I can do to bring him back. But one hope above all is that his death will not be in vain. I believe those responsible should be held accountable under the law."
Those sued include the World Wrest-ling Federation, its parent company Titan Sports, WWF chairman Vince McMahon and Vince's wife, Linda McMahon, who's also WWF president.
Other defendants are designers and manufacturers of the stunt equipment used by Owen, four riggers who worked on the stunt and the City of Kansas City, which owns the Kemper Arena where Owen fell to his death May 23.
No dollar figure is set for the lawsuit, though Robb will ask a Kansas City jury for what is "fair and reasonable." Fair and reasonable could hit $500 million, say several informed Sun sources.
Robb says Owen was placed in a "makeshift contraption" high above the ring and the wrestler unintentionally set off the release cord while adjusting his cape, worn as part of his Blue Blazer costume.
Robb says a movement of Owen's shoulder caused a slight 6 lbs. of "pull tension" triggering the release cord sending Owen hurtling to his death eight storeys below.
The lawyer, among the most famous trial attorneys in America, says the equipment was wrong for the stunt -- a hook attached to Owen Hart's vest is usually used in the rigging of sailboats and Owen's release cord was taped on with duct tape.
At the news conference, family members did most of the talking. Bret spoke of Owen as the only good thing about the WWF, Helen talked about how much she missed her son, the baby of the family.
But Martha, looking at once feisty and frail at a table draped in black, occupied centre stage. You knew this was a time and place she could not have imagined.
Martha spoke of her children growing up without their dad, she talked about her own loneliness, how she missed Owen and how good Calgarians and people in Kansas City had been.
There was a black and white photo of Owen and the kids sitting on the table as she spoke. It was crystal clear who is the bad guy in Martha's mind.
"The WWF has deliberately chosen to promote profit at the expense of the safety of its performers," she said, raising her voice.
Martha spoke once again about how horrified she was when they hauled Owen's dead body out of the ring and continued the show.
"It demonstrates the mindset of the WWF and Vince McMahon."
And so it ends. For now.
The family says it will say no more, except in court. The WWF have yet to defend itself in the press.
Reporters from Calgary, Kansas City and a guy named Lou from Penthouse magazine, are ready to pack up and wait as this case moves ever-so-slowly through the courts.
Martha, her voice softening, thanks Owen's fans throughout the world and speaks for her dead husband.
"Owen would have been so moved. He has touched so many lives."
This is going to be one helluva fight.
Call Dinger at 250-4305 or email firstname.lastname@example.org