(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.
A McMahon, do something unethical? Perish the thought!
There's a reason she's running as a Republican. It's the party of conscience-less sociopaths.
All her kids need is the internet and they will learn everything about their father. My guess is she now wants more money. Oh, poor Mary Hart.
Linda is a joke..go away.
Even with the questionable moral fiber of some current members who make up the Senate, Linda McMahon would head immediately to the bottom rungs of this dysfunctional body if she were to join it. Arrogant, greedy, and running on a platform of zero regulation and as little government controls as possible in businesses, this self-serving "public" servant is a cynical example of "Me Party" politics. Her company cashing in on the image of a wrongfully killed ex-employee is one of the most sickening stories I've read in a long time.
Owen was a phenominal athlete and performer. Even though the circumstances surrounding his death were horrible I believe that WWE should still have the right to show his footage. The younger fans don't really know who he was but for us older fans, getting to see Owens face again every now and then is a reminder of the great wrestler we lost.
The WWE/F is an embarrassment. I remember watching as a kid, and then I grew up and realized that they run their business with no class. Like it or not, they were responsible for Owen's tragic death.
Sensitivity and common decency from wrestling promoters ... yeah, that's going to happen! Don't go looking for moral character from the world of wrestling promoters ... it's a fool errand.
Even though I am not a republican I too question the timing of this accusation. I remember Owen Hart's death and I can see why his wife blames WWE but I don't understand why this accusation was not made earlier.
The timing is clearly intended for maximum damage. The real question is; do you want this kind of person as a Senator? I certainly wouldn't.
During one of her performances, her husband made her get on her knees, crawl, and bark like a dog. What a family values candidate the Republicans picked up. Republicans are not conservatives. They are only frauds.
Now we know why Brett was "fired".
It's all about money and it's only about the corporation and their shareholders. I hope America wakes up to how badly we are being served by our Government and take a close look at people like Ms McMahon and what they expect to GET from taking a Government position... I really don't think she is looking to serve the people. When given the chance to do so, and after agreeing to do so, she, as a representative of the company CHOSE to serve her own "best interest," in spite of her legal obligation.
Think of this suit as if you are viewing a first date... How she treats the waiter on the first date is how she will end up treating YOU in six months or so...
How she treats her legal obligations and the people she enters into agreements with then tells us how she will treat her constituents once in office. Don't Vote For Her!
The GOP and WWE are perfect for each other, both are filled with liars from top to bottom.
Vote No in NOvember to the party of NO.
What does the fact that she is a Republican have to do with this story? If she were a democrat, would the headline be "Democrat named in lawsuit". I doubt it. I am sure if we looked around the country today, we could find lots of democrats named in lawsuits. Her political affiliation has nothng to do with this story.
"Hart, among the most successful professional wrestlers in the 1990's,"
Not true. His brother, Brett "The Hitman" Hart, certainly was. But Owen was really just riding on his older brother's popularity. I can't remember Owen being a title holder or involved in any memorable events. With that said, his death was a tragedy, which should have never happened. If WWE agreed to pull his likeness from its advertising, they should have done so. I hope the McMahons do the right thing here.
Sadly this has nothing to do with the death of the late Owen Hart and has everything to do with dirty politics and smear campaigns. Those responsible should be ashamed.
"A republican is sued" is a pathetic headline. I never saw "A democrat's partner arrested for growing marijuana" when Barney Frank's significant other was arrested last year for growing dope at home.
I also did not see a headline that said "A democrat was imprisoned" when my local sheriff went to jail for theft by deception.
Adding Linda McMahon to the lawsuit was just a way to bring attention to it. WWE used Owen Hart's image after Linda McMahon had already left the company.
Let's not forget that during the late 90s and early 2000's, the WWE was borderline pornographic, and was aired during prime time when they knew that children would be watching it. Sounds like a real "family values" Republican to me!
She shouldnt have a problem with it. After all that makes Owen immortal, im pretty sure she just wants to make some extra cash. follow me on twitter my user name is Leo_Ward, and im troublesome.
Her claim to fame is that her hubby does quasi-gay ballet for teenaged closet freaks. Certainly the qualification I look for when considering a candidate.
Media forgets about Blumenthal lying/
because the media support him.
hart's image in promotional materials cmon hes there by choice
Why is this article entitled " Republican....", this is stupid
Good idea for a couple of more millions. She spent 18 million already.