(Updated with WWE response)
(CNN) – Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, the former Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment CEO, is facing a lawsuit over her former company's alleged promotional use of a wrestler who died more than a decade ago.
In a lawsuit reportedly filed in the U.S. District Court in Hartford, Connecticut, the widow of deceased WWE wrestler Owen Hart says the company is continuing to use Hart's image in promotional materials even though it agreed not to do so after Hart's 1999 death.
Hart, among the most successful professional wrestlers in the 1990's, died after an equipment malfunction during a wrestling event led him to fall more than 80 feet from ceiling rafters. Hart's widow was later awarded $18 million in a wrongful death suit against the WWE (then called the WWF).
Hart's widow is now alleging WWE, and the McMahons specifically, violated the terms of the settlement by using Hart in promotional videos.
"In the 11 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," Mary Hart said in a statement.
News of the lawsuit could be a setback for McMahon's campaign, which has downplayed the candidate's association to the more controversial aspects of the lucrative business she and her husband ran for close to three decades.
Ed Patru, McMahon's communications director, told CNN he "assume[s] the company will be responding at some point today."
McMahon, the likely Republican nominee for Senate in Connecticut, faces Democratic state Attorney Gen. Richard Blumenthal. Polls show Blumenthal with a double-digit advantage over McMahon, even after he admitted to making misstatements about his military service.
"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," Hart also said in the statement.
UPDATE: Speaking with CNN, WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt said an agreement had never been reached to refrain from using footage of Owen Hart.
“WWE is well within their rights” to use the material, McDevitt said.
McDevitt also questioned the timing of the reported lawsuit, given McMahon is now running for Senate.
“In eleven years [since the initial settlement], we have not received an e-mail, a letter, or anything from Hart,” he said.
It's ashame what they did to owen...Their end will not be pretty but they are to dumb and rich to see it!
Owens death was horrible and sad..but he was a paid professional in an industry where he knew there were risks involved. Mary Hart got 18 million dollars in the settlement. I dont know the particulars of the lawsuits, but Owen was a part of the WWE at the time so his image is owned by the WWE. Just as the WWE can use other wrestlers images from the time they wrestled with them.
I think her complaints are misguided
CEO in a phony sport becomes a candidate for a phony political party!
This is priceless – the seamless integration of GOP and WWE – I have to catch my breath.
Taking this up with Pres. Jesse Ventura...