WWE Being Sued by Family of Original Doink The Clown

Jun 26, 2015 - by Marc Middleton

The family of the late Matt Osborne, who is best known as being the first and longest-running professional wrestler to portray the character of Doink the Clown, filed a lawsuit in Dallas, Texas on Friday against WWE.

Osborne’s widow, Michelle James, is listed as the plaintiff along with their two children, Matthew and Teagan Osborne, in the lawsuit alleging negligence and fraud related to “mistreatment of Matthew Osborne which ultimately resulted in Matthew Osborne’s wrongful death.”

It is stated in the lawsuit, “When forced to acknowledge the risks to which it subjects its wrestlers — by script, on a daily basis — WWE took inadequate steps to correct the problem or to address its injurious conduct, the full consequences of which are still coming to light. Indeed, WWE continues a course of conduct designed to mislead its wrestlers, and designed to mislead Matthew Osborne until his death, about the injuries they sustained while wrestling for WWE by failing to disclose pertinent facts or offering misleading truths.”

The lawsuit alleges that Osborne experienced “traumatic brain injuries” that resulted in “depression and drug abuse, which ultimately resulted in his untimely death.” Osborne was found dead on June 28, 2013, in the Plano, Texas apartment he shared with James. His cause of death was determined to be an accidental overdose of morphine and hydrocodone. He also suffered from heart disease, which was a contributing factor in his death.

WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt has said that WWE is “being targeted by attorneys who tell [wrestlers and their families] there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars” to be made filing concussion-related suits. He tells The Dallas Morning News this evening this suit is no different—that it’s just another one in a long line of legal filings aimed at “drumming up people … looking for NFL money.”

“They’re all different from the NFL. We never had anyone claim they had these kinds of injuries until [these attorneys] did it. They find the destitute, people who have no money, and told them there’s money to be made. That’s what is going on,” said McDevitt. “And I feel bad for these families, because they think they’ll make money off of this, and they’re not.”

When Osborne died two years ago, WWE issued a statement reading, “WWE is saddened by the news that Matt Osborne, aka the original Doink the Clown, has passed away. A rugged brawler in promotions like Mid-South Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, Osborne made a major impact in WWE under the greasepaint of a prankster named Doink — one of the most enduring personas of the early ’90s. Our deepest condolences go out to Osborne’s family, friends and fans.”

It is alleged in the lawsuit that Osborne began wrestling in 1985 after being approached by WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. This is incorrect as Osborne began wrestling in 1978 for various National Wrestling Alliance territories, most prominently for Pacific Northwest Wrestling. He joined WWE in 1985, primarily competing as a preliminary wrestler. The highlight of this stint was losing to Ricky Steamboat at the first WrestleMania, held at Madison Square Garden.

The Dallas Morning News’ coverage of the story, including the entire 72-page lawsuit, is available here.

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