(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.
Given that McMahon's only experience is related to the silliest form of entertainment in the world –and that's no exaggeration– it is a wonder that any scandal would effect her campaign one way or the other. However, if Connecticut voters were ever tempted to elect her - this story might require calling in "the Undertaker" to give her campaign its last rites.
Is she, in fact, ready to rumble?
"Republican named..." What in the world does this have to do with being a republican. Journalism at its worst.
"I was shocked to learn earlier this year..."
""..one must question the moral character of Vince and Linda McMahon and the manner in which they conduct their business.. "Hart also said"
Convenient timing huh?... If it actually did go on, she did not know about it for the past 11 years... until this year?
One has to what the DNC is doing for her... you know they are "involved" somehow or another. I'll bet they provided the "undiscovered until this year" info.
What about questioning "the moral character" of a man who deliberately misrepresents (aka LIES) about his service in order to make himself look better? Ya also gotta wonder about "the moral character" of a state that woudl elecet him....
From one rigged industry (pro wrestling) to another (politics). She'll be a natural.
You people don't get it. Republicans MAKE the laws. They don't have to actually OBEY them. Laws are for the little people.
A very sleazy industry. Perfect match for Republican politicians.
Ahhh good old GObP . . . . classy as always!
Linda McMahon is the ideal rethugliCANT candidate.
Like most all memebers of the GO(B)P, she comes from a questionable "business" that is made up mainly of sleazy sports promoters and grifters that try and hussle "rasslin" as a legitimate sport – Just like the GO(B)P trys to hussle Americans with their "government on the cheap" and "family values" sales pitch...
leave it to the republicans to use a dead man for advertising.
Good for the Harts. It's about time that people realize that Linda McMahon's business empire was built on violence, drug abuse, and the death of her employees.
As a HUGE WWE fan, as every REAL American should be....I must say I agree that they should respect her wishes.
However it is strange that Bret, Owen's brother, just did an employment run with the WWE as general manager of Monday Night RAW.
Ironically, Vince fired Bret last night...maybe it's connected to this suit? Tune into USA Network Monday Nights at 9pm to find out!
Knowing the WWE wresting bouts are contrived, and that they use images of someone deceased while using their faulty equipment, even after saying theywould not, one would have to be crazy to want Linda McMahon in public office. It's pretty apparent that ethics are not her strong suit. Haven't we had enough of that in Washington DC?
I did not even read the article but was so put off by the headline on the front page. CNN is so quick to point out party affiliation when someone is republican but if they rarely mention it ( and never in the headlines) when there is a democrat involved in anything.
GOP = Anything to make a buck!
This lady is an idiot. Owen would not have wanted his name disassociated with the WWF/E over an accident. He worked hard all of his life to get to the level of fame he did, and this emotional train wreck wants to tear that all down and keep his awesome legacy from his children because of an accident. The man must be rolling in his grave.
Whats wrong with remember Owen?
"A shakedown? Yeah, it was a shakedown. When you are limited by law to a certain level of liability, and .GOV steps in and says you need to pay more than the law allows (without legislation being passed to change your liability level) – that is a shakedown. Pure and simple."
Not quite, Captain Talkingpoint. You see, what really went down is more akin to Obama saying "Gentlemen, you've got a choice:
(a) pay only the $75M the law requires...in which case I'll exercise my executive powers to initiate processes like seizing your assets, banning you from drilling off the USA's shores and, of course, fire up the grand jury investigations and prosecute silly every single one of you corrupt self-centered corporate bast-rds on whom we can find the smallest speck of dirt...
(b) pay a very large sum into an escrow account so we can assure some level of security for the people and businesses of the Gulf whose lives have been completely disrupted by this disaster you caused and so we have a fund from which to draw to pay down some of the expenses of clean up, etc....in which case, I'll consider not using the executive pimp slap to knock you into next Tuesday.
Which will it be?"
It's called leveraging your superior bargaining position to obtain the most practical result...and if that's a "shakedown," I challenge you to find me someone who actually cares (i.e., who isn't just spouting off at the mouth because they think it's a convenient and damaging talking point for their tribe to spew at Obama). Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart....
The whole organization, wwe, smackdown, raw,tna,nxt are so fake and phony, how can anyone believe anyithing they say, the shows should be labeled as an on-going soap opera, and yes you can go to any wwe site on the net and the death of Hart is mentioned, although an actual video would be hard to find.Ms. McMahon will never be elected to anything regardless of how much money she has, and spends on the campaign.
Another POS Republican. Can't wait for her to blame Obama for this.
You'd think anyone running for any office requiring a perception of depth and intelligence would play down, rather than up, any past association with professional wrestling, which has been a cultural joke for ignorant red-neck low-brow shadow-play diversions for so long that mere coincidence of names SHOULD be disqualification without further consideration!!!
What? Sue a Republican for opportunistically using a deadman's fame to make more money? That's completely un-American.
Figures. The McMahons will do anything to make a buck.
McMahons sound like ruthless money grabbers like an ex-gov I have heard of. They sound like they have what it takes to be tea-baggers!
Not surprising! Aren't all repuglicans cheats and liars?