There were comments made by Martha Hart in interviews she did with Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports talking about the death of her husband Owen Hart in 1999 at the WWE Over the Edge pay-per-view in Kansas City. We posted some of the interview highlights yesterday right here including Martha saying she would never allow WWE to put Owen in their Hall of Fame. Martha did the interview to promote the Owen Hart documentary as part of the “Dark Side of the Ring” series that airs on VICE Network tonight at 10pmET.
In response to what Martha said, WWE outside legal council Jerry McDevitt responded to the CBS Sports story that featured comments from Martha.
The following are some of the comments from Martha:
“What was happening to Owen when he was sitting in that harness is, his circulation was getting cut off and he couldn’t breathe. Then, the snap shackle that they used, that snap shackle is not meant for rigging humans. It’s meant for the sole use of rigging sailboats. It’s a sailboat clip that, by design, is meant to open on load. By the very design of the stunt, it was meant to fail, because the weight of Owen on that clip actually made it more likely it would open spontaneously.”
“Proper riggers have a few things they would never do. First, they would never do a stunt without redundancy. That didn’t happen; there was no redundancy. Second, they never, ever, let the talent have any control into the stunt. These guys were telling Owen, ‘This cord taped here, don’t pull it until you get to the ground.’ That would never happen; proper riggers don’t rig things this way. The other thing is, WWE is a billion-dollar company. Owen never questioned his safety. He thought for sure they were hiring people that knew what they were doing. He was putting his life in their hands, and they didn’t care. They didn’t have any regard for Owen’s life whatsoever. They went outside of qualified riggers that had good experience.”
In response to that, WWE’s McDevitt wrote this and I’ll put McDevitt’s comments in blue font just to differentiate it:
“The reality is, we’ve never told our side of the story of what happened — at least not outside of court. We told it in court, but when she talks about the way the lawsuit unfolded over the years, it really isn’t accurate what she’s saying. What she did whenever this happened is, she hired a lawyer in Kansas City who we caught essentially trying to fix the judicial selection process to get a judge that was more to their liking. We caught them and went all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court. The Missouri Supreme Court said, ‘No, no, no. We’re not going to let that happen.’ They essentially appointed an independent judge to come in from outside of Kansas City to oversee the proceedings. We were basically trying to find out what happened that night. Martha was not even remotely interested in finding out what happened that night; she just wanted to used it as a vehicle to beat up a business that she didn’t like that her husband was in, the wrestling business.”
Martha also commented on how she felt WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was manipulating some of Owen’s family members:
“Vince was manipulating Owen’s family, which resulted in some of the family members working against me. The Hart family overall didn’t support the lawsuit, but some worked against me. They stole my legal documents and were faxing them to the defense. It was like they had our whole playbook. They were just muddying the waters because they knew they didn’t have the case. They just muddied the waters and made everything a mess. There was just this nonstop disrespect.”
Here’s what WWE’s McDevitt had to say in reply to that:
“Her and her lawyer, in reality, had tried to get the members of the Hart family, Owen’s brothers and sisters, to sign a document in which they would agree to support Martha and her case and they would not talk to WWE. In exchange for that, they were all promised a share of any verdict or settlement, which is highly illegal, completely improper and you can get in big trouble for that. What happened was some of the members of the Hart family were offended by this because they realized this was wrong. … They knew this was wrong and they faxed me those documents, which I fell out of the chair when I read them. I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. This is completely illegal, you can’t do this stuff.’ All of that was then brought to the attention of the judge in Kansas City.”
It was also shared by WWE’s lawyer McDevitt the details on how they reached a settlement.
“She talked about how $18 million settlement, she didn’t really want to do that, she wanted justice. Again, that’s just not true. There was court-ordered mediation. We went to the mediation, and her lawyers were demanding $35 million and some admission of punitive damages. Vince told her right there, ‘Look, Martha, I feel so bad for what happened. I feel responsible because this happened on my watch. I want to take care of you and your family, I loved Owen.’ He was almost crying. We offered $17 million to take care of her. How many times does a CEO walk in a room and say he feels responsible? ‘I’m not going to argue, I just feel responsible for what happened.’ They turned it down; they wanted to go to court for their $35 million. Fine, we’ll go and litigate. The next day, I get a call from her Canadian lawyer, saying they didn’t want to do it because they knew what they were facing with the other things I talked about. They said, ‘If you could put a little more money in. If you can go to $18 million we’ll settle right now.’ That’s how the settlement went down.”
During the interview, Martha spoke about forgiveness:
“At the end of it all, I’ve forgiven all of them, really. The Hart family, Vince McMahon, I don’t hold any grudges. I hope life has been kind to all of them. My life hasn’t been easy, and I certainly wouldn’t wish harm on anyone.”
“I don’t have a relationship with [the rest of the Hart] family. That said, if I see them on the street or at an event, I’m always polite. I tell my kids to be polite and respectful. But the problem is with once you break the trust in a relationship. I’m really sad they couldn’t find the strength to support me. It’s unfortunate that they put their own self-interests above the welfare of me and my kids and getting justice for Owen.”
There’s more in the CBS Sports article here.
TJR Thoughts: This whole situation is messy for obvious reasons and I don’t blame WWE’s lawyer for responding to it. I felt the need to post it because I’ve done two posts featuring Martha’s comments in the last week and I felt like it was only fair to share something from WWE’s side too. I don’t plan on posting much more about it unless there’s any breaking news.