WWE News WWE NEWS EXCLUSIVE: Lawsuit vs. Big Show/WWE removed to federal court, WWE calls one claim "baseless," files Intellectual Property form, plus more details on the case
May 11, 2013 - 1:52:13 AM
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By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
WWE filed a "notice of removal" on May 9 to have the lawsuit filed by former WWE producer Andrew Green against Big Show and WWE moved to federal court in Arizona. Green originally filed the lawsuit in Arizona state court in April.
PWTorch exclusively obtained the case documents, which includes WWE explaining why they motioned to have the case moved to federal court:
"While Plaintiffs (Green and his wife, Staci) do not allege federal claims, their state law claims... is predicated on WWE allegedly posting and maintaining on its website video footage of an interview involving plaintiff Andrew Green and Defendant Paul Wight a/k/a Big Show... Such claims are completely preempted by federal copyright law and, therefore, 'arise under' federal law for purposes of federal question jurisdiction."
WWE's legal maneuver is to claim that a federal copyright/intellectual property dispute - Green alleged in his April lawsuit that he should receive payment for WWE profiting from his run-in with Big Show - takes precedence. WWE subsequently described the claim as "baseless."
As summed up by WWE in their notice, Green's claims against Show and WWE include "negligence, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, commercial appropriation of likeness, unjust enrichment, intentional tort, and accounting/constructive trust."
This is based on Green alleging that Show physically and emotionally harmed him during a backstage interview at the Royal Rumble PPV in Phoenix, Ariz. in January. Then, WWE posted an edited version of the interview on their website before removing it two days later.
In WWE's motion filed May 9, WWE zeroed in on Green's claim that he should receive payment for WWE profiting from the website interview, which Green claimed drew "in excess of one hundred thousand page views."
Green's claim in the April lawsuit reads: "WWE exploited Green for its own commercial gain without providing Green any equitable share of the profits or royalties nor any restitution or reimbursement for monies rightfully owed to Green. Green is entitled to an equitable distribution of profit from the use of his image and likeness in advertising, marketing, and promotions."
In the May 9 response, WWE filed a copy of Green's signed "Intellectual Property Release and Waiver" employment form, which includes text reading: "The undersigned shall not be entitled to any further payments, residuals, monies or other compensation other than the undersigned's regular salary arising out of WWE's exploitation of the footage and/or likeness ln any manner."
WWE further responded: "WWE is the sole owner of the copyright in the video footage of the Interview and Mr. Green explicitly released WWE from all claims of liability – including, specifically, those claims asserted in this lawsuit – arising out of the exploitation of such footage. Plaintiffs’s state law claims involve nothing more than an attempt to interfere with WWE’s exercise of its exclusive rights under the Copyright Act in violation of the express Intellectual Property Release and Waiver that Mr. Green signed."
WWE's legal response continued to focus on the copyright issue by citing previous related court cases before concluding: "WWE has previously succeeded in foreclosing such baseless and preempted claims by prior plaintiffs seeking to interfere with WWE’s exclusive copyrights."
Green's argument against WWE, which is contained in the April lawsuit, is that he believes "WWE breached its duty by employing Big Show, an improper person." Green further argued that WWE "intentionally created dangerous conditions that made it substantially likely Green's injuries would occur."
In their May 9 response, WWE focused on the copyright/intellectual property aspect. They did not address several other aspects of the lawsuit, including whether or not WWE was negligent in their training of Big Show, handling of the interview, and management protocol addressing Green's claimed injuries after the fact, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
As WWE stated in their response, they consider the negligence aspect of Green's suit to be secondary to the federal-level copyright claims. Assuming the case goes to trial, WWE stated, "This Court should exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’s claims against WWE for negligent hiring, negligent retention, and negligent training/supervision."
In the April filing, Green demanded trial judgment against WWE and Big Show seeking the following damages: "punitive and exemplary damages against all defendants, for an accounting of profits; for restitution/equitable distribution of commercial profits; for constructive trust; for all costs and expenses incurred herein including reasonable attorneys' fees, for pre-judgment and post-judgment interest at the maximum rate allowed by law, and for such other and further relief to which Plaintiffs may be entitled either at law or in equity or as the Court may deem just in the premises."
There is no indication yet when the next step in the legal process will occur. WWE concluded in their motion: "WWE intends to preserve all of its rights and defenses. Wherefore, WWE hereby gives notice that the State Court Action is hereby removed to this Court."
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