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McCullough v. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 21, 2016



VANESSA L. BRYANT, District Judge.

Plaintiffs in this consolidated action are former wrestlers for World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. ("WWE"), a Connecticut entertainment company which produces televised wrestling programming. Plaintiffs allege that they are either suffering from symptoms of permanent degenerative neurological conditions resulting from traumatic brain injuries sustained during their employment as wrestlers for WWE or are at increased risk of developing such conditions. Plaintiffs claim that they were injured as a result of WWE's negligence in scripting violent conduct and failing to properly educate, prevent, diagnose and treat them for concussions. Plaintiffs also claim that WWE had knowledge of evidence suggesting a link between repeated head trauma that could be sustained during WWE events and permanent degenerative neurological conditions such as CTE and either concealed such evidence, fraudulent or negligently denied that it existed, or failed to disclose it in the face of a duty to disclose. Plaintiffs allege that they relied on such fraudulent statements or omissions to their detriment in making decisions regarding their health. In total, plaintiffs have asserted six claims against WWE in their Complaints, including: "Fraudulent Concealment"; (Count II) "Fraud by Omission"; (Count III) Negligent Misrepresentation; (Count IV) Fraudulent Deceit; (Count V) Negligence; and (Count VI) Medical Monitoring.

Currently before the Court are WWE's Motions to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint brought by plaintiffs Singleton and LoGrasso, in its entirety, for failure to state a claim, as well as WWE's similar Motions to Dismiss the Amended Complaints brought by Plaintiff William Albert Haynes III and Plaintiffs Russ McCullough, Ryan Sakoda and Matthew Wiese, both of which are purported class actions. [Dkt. #74, Dkt. 95].

Specifically, WWE argues that the claims of all of the plaintiffs except Singleton must be dismissed because they are all time-barred by the applicable Connecticut statutes of limitations and repose, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-584 and § 52-577. [Dkt. 43-1, Def.'s Mem. at 1]. WWE also argues that Plaintiffs' negligence-based claims must be dismissed because WWE owed no duty of care to protect Plaintiffs from injuries resulting "from the inherent risks of professional wrestling and within the normal expectations of professional wrestlers." [Id. at 2]. Finally, WWE argues that the plaintiffs' fraud claims, negligent misrepresentation claims and deceit claims must be dismissed either because they fail to comply with the heightened pleading requirements of Rule 9(b) or because they fail to state a cognizable cause of action under Connecticut law. [Id.].

Plaintiffs respondby arguing that the statutes of limitation and repose are subject to tolling based on the continuous course of conduct tdoctrine and because of fraudulent concealment pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-595. Plaintiffs argue that they have stated claims for negligence because WWE owed a duty of care to protect the Plaintiffs from the long term neurological effects that may result from sustaining multiple concussions and have stated claims for fraud because WWE failed to disclose that Plaintiffs were at risk for such neurological conditions.

For the reasons that follow, WWE's Motion to Dismiss the Singleton action [Dkt. 43] is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and WWE's Motions to Dismiss the McCullough and Haynes actions [Dkt. 95, Dkt. 64] are GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

The following facts and allegations are taken from the Second Amended Complaint in the action brought by Evan Singleton and Vito LoGrasso [3:15-cv-00425-VLB, Dkt. #73] (hereinafter "SAC")] as well as the Amended Complaint in the purported class action brought by Russ McCullough [Dkt. 73] (hereinafter "MAC")] and the Amended Complaint in the purported class action brought by William Albert Haynes [3:15-cv-01156-VLB, Dkt. #43] (hereinafter "HAC")]. All three Complaints contain nearly identical factual allegations with the exception of certain paragraphs alleging facts particular to each named plaintiff. The Complaints are also excessively lengthy, including large numbers of paragraphs that offer content unrelated to the Plaintiffs' causes of action and appear aimed at an audience other than this Court.

a) World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.

The WWE is an "organizer and purveyor of professional wrestling events, programs, and matches." [SAC ¶ 19]. WWE events are alleged to be an "action soap opera" in that the events are scripted, both as to dialogue between the wrestlers as well as the actual physical wrestling stunts, and the events have preordained winners and losers. [Id. ¶ 20]. Plaintiffs allege that WWE creates scripts for its performances that require its wrestlers to perform "activities that are exceedingly dangerous." [Id. ¶¶ 40, 44]. Plaintiffs allege that WWE adds what it calls "heat" to its scripts in order to ensure that there is "extra physicality" in its matches, including the use of weapons or chairs in its stunts. [Id. ¶ 44]. Plaintiffs allege that they have sustained "thousands of hits to their heads as part of scripted and choreographed moves." [Id. ¶ 50]. As a result, Plaintiffs "believe they are at greater risk for developing long-term brain diseases such as dementia, Alzheimers disease, ALS, and CTE." [Id. ¶ 2].

The WWE employs trainers and doctors to oversee its wrestling events and to treat and monitor its wrestlers for injuries they sustain from participation in the events or practices. [Id. ¶¶ 86, 129, 131]. Specifically, the WWE created a "Wellness Program, " launched on February 27, 2006, which provides "[c]omprehensive medical and wellness staffing, cardiovascular testing and monitoring, ImPACT concussion testing, substance abuse and drug testing, annual physicals, [and] health care referrals" to current and former WWE wrestlers. [Id. ¶ 78]. The WWE also is alleged to collect injury reports concerning injuries sustained by WWE talent in the ring. [Id. ¶ 89].

b) Concussions and CTE

Plaintiffs define a "concussion" as a type of mild traumatic brain injury ("MTBI") caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body.' A blow to the head that does not cause a concussion, or that has not been diagnosed to cause a concussion, is commonly referred to as a sub-concussive blow." [Id. ¶ 26]. Concussions cause numerous symptoms including: "headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance coordination, loss of consciousness, confusion, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, fatigue or drowsiness, difficulty sleeping, sleeping more than usual, and seizures." [Id. ¶ 28].

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy ("CTE") is defined in the Complaints as a permanent change to brain structure caused by repeated blows to the head. [SAC ¶¶ 32-33]. CTE is usually caused by repeated minor traumatic brain injuries that "often occur[] well before the development of clinical manifestations, " rather than from a single injury. [Id. ¶ 34]. Concussions can cause CTE, but are not the only cause: repeated sub-concussive head trauma can also cause CTE." [Id. ¶ 25]. Furthermore, sustaining repeated mild traumatic brain injuries without taking sufficient time to recover may significantly increase the risk of developing CTE. [Id. ¶ 30]. Symptoms of CTE include "depression, dementia, cognitive impairment, Parkinsonism, personality change, speech and gait abnormalities." [SAC ¶ 33]. Whereas a concussion's symptoms "are often sensory and manifest immediately, " CTE can manifest much later, and "can be caused by blows which have no accompanying symptoms." [Id. ¶¶ 35-36]. Unlike concussions, CTE can only be diagnosed post mortem with a "direct tissue examination, which can detect an elevated level of Tau protein in brain tissue." Id.

c) Concussion Training, Education and Prevention at WWE

Each of the six named plaintiffs alleges that they were "never educated about the ramifications of head trauma and injury and never received any medical information regarding concussion or sub-concussive injuries while employed by the WWE." [SAC ¶¶ 138-139]. Rather, Plaintiffs claim that they "relied on WWE's superior knowledge and position of authority." [Id. at ¶140].

Beyond that sole allegation, the Complaints devote large portions of their overall length alleging various injuries and slights sustained by WWE wrestlers other than the named plaintiffs. In fact, despite the length of the Complaints, the Court's prior admonishment of plaintiffs' counsel and the Court's provision of additional time to file a Second Amended Complaint in the Singleton action, there are precious few allegations which detail specific instances of conduct that have wronged any of the five plaintiffs. The Complaints are replete with theoretical allegations of conditions from which a hypothetical person could suffer without alleging that any particular Plaintiff actually suffers from such a condition which has been causally connected by an expert to such Plaintiff's performance at WWE events.

For example, the Complaints allege that the WWE did not adequately train "its wrestlers" to execute "their moves, " [SAC ¶88], and that WWE created "complicated and dangerous stunts" which it directed "its wrestlers" to perform. [SAC ¶ 91]. Some allegations single out a former WWE trainer, Bill Demott, who is alleged to have ordered "wrestlers who complained of injuries" to "sit in time out, " and to have assaulted or verbally humiliated those wrestlers. [Id. ¶ 98]. Nowhere do the Complaints allege that any of the named Plaintiffs were subjected to such conduct. Other allegations are patently vague. As an example, WWE is accused of having "continuously permeate[d] (sic) an environment of humiliation and silence." [Id. ¶ 124]. Demott is accused of having "fostered a brutal culture" and of having forced unnamed wrestlers into "dangerous drills that led to many injuries." [Id. ¶ 98].

Some allegations do not seem to fit plaintiffs' own timeline of events. The Complaints allege that "WWE's Wellness Program served to deceive Plaintiffs by providing a false sense of security and assurance that their health and safety were being adequately monitored, both in the ring and as former wrestlers." [MAC ¶ 83]. The Wellness Program, however, was created after McCullough, Sakoda and Wiese had retired, and plaintiffs do not allege that WWE has ever claimed its Wellness Program was intended to monitor former talent.

Other allegations are patently false.[1] They are simply copied and pasted in whole cloth from one Complaint to another. For example, the McCullough Complaint parrots verbatim the allegation that "LoGrasso, wrestling on average five times a week, sustained repeated concussions day after day over many years, " without bothering to change the name of the plaintiff. [MAC ¶ 43]. Even LoGrasso's allegation that he suffered concussions "day after day" is contradicted by the fact that LoGrasso never alleges that he was diagnosed with a concussion during his entire tenure with WWE. Rather, his Complaint speculatively alleges only that "upon information and belief" a WWE doctor "would on numerous occasions" witness LoGrasso suffer head trauma extremely likely to cause concussions." [SAC ¶ 135 (emphasis added]. Further, it is unclear what LoGrasso's basis is for alleging daily concussions would be, given that he also alleges that while he was wrestling for WWE he was never educated "regarding concussion or sub-concussive injuries" and "never knew that he could sustain a concussion while remaining awake." [SAC ¶ 137].

d) WWE's Alleged Knowledge and Concealment of Risks

Plaintiffs allege that WWE "concealed important medical information, including the effects of multiple head traumas" from the plaintiffs, in a campaign of misinformation and deception to prevent Plaintiffs from understanding the true nature and consequences of the injuries they have sustained." [Id. ¶ 60-61]. Specifically, the Singleton and McCullough Complaints allege that WWE was aware "in 2005 and beyond" that wrestling for the WWE and suffering head trauma "would result in long-term injuries." [SAC ¶ 57, MAC ¶ 57]. It is unclear how plaintiffs arrive precisely at the year 2005 - the paragraph containing this allegation cites a link to an internet article on the website of the Mayo Clinic regarding the causes of concussions that is no longer available. Elsewhere, the Complaints cite to studies conducted in 2009 and 2010 and findings in 2007 that former wrestlers may have suffered from CTE. [SAC ¶ 34, 35, 58]. The Complaints also contain allegations undermining the claim that WWE "was aware" of the medical information allegedly concealed, as they later allege only that "WWE knew, or should have known, of developments in medical science during the last decade, " citing to a "large body of medical and scientific studies that date as far back to the 1920s that link head trauma to long term neurological problems." [Id. ¶ 3 (emphasis added)].

Plaintiffs allege that "WWE had superior special [sic] knowledge of material medical information that WWE wrestlers did not have access to, " although the only specific allegation regarding specialized knowledge is that the WWE allegedly had exclusive access to a "repository of substantial concussion and other head injury information, " because the WWE "[u]pon information and belief, [] regularly collected and continues to collect wrestler injury reports, including during [the] Plaintiffs' careers with WWE[.]" [Id. ¶ 89].

The WWE is alleged to have "published articles and... downplayed known long-term health risks of concussions." [Id. ¶ 72]. Specifically, WWE is alleged to have issued a statement to ESPN questioning the veracity of a report suggesting a former wrestler, Chris Benoit, suffered from CTE. [Id. ¶ 70]. WWE is alleged to have stated that it was:

"unaware of the veracity of any of these tests... Dr. Omalu claims that Mr. Benoit had a brain that resembled an 85 year-old with Alzheimer's, which would lead one to ponder how Mr. Benoit would have found his way to an airport, let alone been able to remember all the moves and information that is required to perform in the ring...." [Id.].

The Complaints allege that WWE CEO Vincent K. McMahon and former WWE CEO Linda McMahon further attacked those findings in a joint interview on CNN in 2007. [Id. ¶ 74]. Plaintiffs cite Dr. Joseph Maroon's statements to the NFL Network, Total Access in March of 2015 that "[t]he problem of CTE, although real, is its being overexaggerated." [Id. ¶ 56]. Plaintiffs also allege that WWE Executive Stephanie McMahon Levesque's testified in 2007 to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives that there were "no documented concussions in WWEs history."[2] [Id. ¶ 64]. Plaintiff LoGrasso further alleges that he has received pamphlets and e-mails from the WWE Wellness Program offering support to former wrestlers struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, but that he has not received any communication from the WWE Wellness Program regarding long-term neurological disorders resulting from wrestling activities. [Id. ¶76].

Finally, plaintiffs allege that the WWE did not "properly assess, diagnose, and treat their wrestlers, " although, as described below, none of the five named plaintiffs brings any allegation that on any specific date they complained to a specific WWE employee about concussion-like symptoms and were wrongfully diagnosed as having not suffered a concussion or medically cleared to wrestle without adequate rest.

e) The Named Plaintiffs

i) Plaintiff Vito LoGrasso

Plaintiff Vito LoGrasso began to wrestle for the WWE in 1990 as an extra, eventually signing a full-time contract with the WWE in 2005. [Id. ¶¶ 118, 122-23]. LoGrasso alleges that he "never knew that he could sustain a concussion while remaining awake" and claims he believed that "having his bells rung' would not result in a concussion." [Id. ¶ 137]. LoGrasso alleges that during his tenure with the WWE, his trainer Bill Dumott and other unidentified WWE employees encouraged LoGrasso "to fight through serious injury, " although such injuries are unspecified. [Id. ¶ 124]. LoGrasso alleges that he was told by unidentified WWE employees that injuries he suffered were part of "paying his dues." [Id. ¶ 125].

LoGrasso alleges that on some date in September of 2006, he was "kicked in the face outside the ring, " which knocked LoGrasso to the ground "where he struck his head against concrete steps." [Id. ¶ 134]. LoGrasso alleges that he was not examined by WWE medical staff for a possible concussion after the incident. [Id.]. However, LoGrasso does not allege that he ever approached any WWE employee to report concussion-like symptoms or that any specific WWE employee had knowledge of his condition.

LoGrasso retired from wrestling in 2007. [Id. ¶ 136]. In 2008 LoGrasso began experiencing "symptoms of neurological injury in the form of residual, pounding headaches." [Id. ¶ 140]. In either 2009 or 2010, LoGrasso was diagnosed with "TMJ of the jaw" and was diagnosed as "near deaf in one ear and mostly deaf in the other." [Id. at ¶ 141]. In 2014 or 2015 LoGrasso alleges that he was diagnosed as "having numerous neurological injuries, " which are not specified. [Id. ¶¶ 142-47].

ii) Plaintiff Evan Singleton

Plaintiff Evan Singleton is a Pennsylvania resident who signed a contract with the WWE in 2012 and wrestled for WWE from 2012 to 2013. [SAC ¶ 93]. Singleton alleges that he "did not have adequate time to rest between matches and was encouraged to wrestle while injured." [Id. ¶ 95]. Singleton also alleges that he sustained "numerous" injuries to the "upper body, neck and head" during his two year wrestling career with WWE, though such injuries are unspecified in the Complaint. [Id.].

Singleton simultaneously alleges that WWE was negligent because, during training, Singleton was matched "with inexperienced opponents which due to lack of experience resulted in more injuries" and that WWE was negligent because Singleton was scripted to perform a "choke slam" with a "more skilled, more experienced" wrestler despite Singleton's own lack of experience with the maneuver. [Id. ¶¶ 96, 100]. While performing this maneuver on or about September 27, 2012, Singleton alleges that he was "knocked completely unconscious" after being "thrown with extra force" to the wrestling mat. [Id. ¶ 102]. Singleton alleges that he "suffered a blow to the left side of his head and sustained a brain injury as a result." [Id. ¶ 103]. He further alleges that he experienced symptoms immediately after suffering the blow to the head in the choke slam maneuver and that after regaining consciousness he had "balance problems." [Id. ¶ 100, 103].

While Singleton alleges that he was "not treated" after the incident, he admits that he saw a WWE trainer immediately after the incident and was instructed to rest over the following weekend and have his father and roommate monitor his condition. [Id. ¶ 104]. Singleton was later seen by a WWE-affiliated doctor who prescribed additional rest, followed by a WWE-affiliated neurologist who ordered additional testing and a referral to a WWE treating psychiatrist. [Id. ¶¶ 105-106, 115]. Singleton then simultaneously alleges that he was "not medically cleared to wrestle" by WWE but that he was "encouraged" to return and "criticized" and "threaten[ed]" and "harass[ed]" for his inability to return by his trainer, Demott. [Id. ¶ 108].

Singleton does not allege that the WWE ever cleared him to wrestle again, or otherwise failed to prevent additional injury or treatment. Rather, he alleges that as a result of a referral to an inpatient facility by WWE, his primary care physician determined that he suffered from a "possible intracranial hemorrhage." [Id. ¶ 113]. Singleton also alleges that he currently experiences migraines and severe mental health issues as a result of the injury he sustained on September 27, 2015. [Id. ¶¶ 113, 115].

iii) Plaintiff Russ McCullough

Plaintiff Russ McCullough is a California resident who wrestled for the WWE from 1999 to 2001. [MAC ¶ 98]. Several of McCullough's allegations appear to have been copied and pasted from the Singleton Complaint. Like Singleton, McCullough alleges that he "did not have adequate time to rest between matches and was encouraged to wrestle while injured." [Id. ¶ 99]. Also like Singleton, McCullough alleges that he sustained "numerous" injuries to the "upper body, neck and head" during his two year wrestling career with WWE, though such injuries are also unspecified in his Complaint. [Id. ¶ 100].

McCullough alleges alleges that he was "knocked completely unconscious" after being struck to the head with a metal chair during a WWE wrestling match. [Id.] While unconscious, he was struck in the head with the metal chair "more than 15 times." [Id.] McCullough "sought treatment on his own and on an unspecified date not later than 2001 and he was diagnosed with a severe concussion" following the incident. [Id.] McCullough also alleges that while participating in numerous WWE wrestling matches he suffered "sub-concussive or concussive blows." [Id. ¶ 101]. McCullough currently suffers from "headaches, memory loss and severe mental health issues." [Id. ¶ 103].

iv) Plaintiff Ryan Sakoda

Plaintiff Ryan Sakoda is a California resident who wrestled for the WWE from 2003 to 2004. [Id. ¶ 104]. Sakoda alleges that he knowingly suffered a traumatic brain injury when, on an unspecified date in 2003, he was "knocked unconscious in a match by a Super Kick." [Id. ¶ 106]. Sakoda w alleges that WWE trainers and medical staff told him "not to go to sleep, suggesting that if he did he may bleed to death and die." [Id.]. He alleges that he was "forced to wrestle injured" on the threat of losing his job. [Id. ¶ 105]. Sakoda alleges that he currently suffers from headaches, memory loss and depression. [Id. ¶ 108].

v) Plaintiff Matt Wiese

Plaintiff Matt Wiese is a California resident who wrestled from 2003 to 2005 under the stage name "Luther Reigns." [Id. ¶ 109]. Wiese alleges that he knowingly "sustained numerous untreated head injuries" although such injuries are not specified. [Id. ¶ 110]. Wiese alleges that during a WWE event on an unspecified date he was punched by a wrestler under the stage name "Big Show" and sustained "visible injuries" to his head and vomited afterward. [Id.]. Wiese alleges that "WWE staff took no steps to intervene in the event" or to treat his condition. [Id.]. However, Wiese does not allege that he ever approached any WWE employee to report concussion-like symptoms or seek treatment or that any specific WWE employee had knowledge of his condition. Wiese alleges that he suffers from headaches and memory loss and has had a stroke. [Id. ¶ 111].

vi) Plaintiff William Albert Haynes III

Plaintiff William Albert Haynes, III ("Haynes") wrestled for WWE from 1986 to 1988. [HAC ¶ 122]. The Complaint alleges that "Haynes is [sic] well known champion wrestler." Id. Like the other named plaintiffs, Haynes alleges that at unspecified times he "suffered sub-concussive or concussive blows" and was subjected to "verbal abuse and pressure" from unidentified WWE employees. Id. at 123-124. Haynes alleges that on March 29, 1987, he was "hit in the head with a large metal chain" which led to an unspecified "head injury" that was not treated. Id. at 126. Haynes does not allege that he ever sought treatment or from the WWE or a physician or trainer employed by WWE or that he ever complained of concussion-like symptoms. Haynes alleges that he was never educated "about the risk of sustaining numerous subconcussive and concussive blows." Id. at 125. Haynes "exhibits symptoms of dementia" and depression. Id. at 131.

f) Procedural History

Plaintiffs Singleton and LoGrasso originally filed their Complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on January 16, 2015 as a purported class action. On February 27, 2015, WWE filed a Motion to Transfer Venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) due to forum-selection clauses in the contracts signed by each of the wrestlers. [Dkt. 6]. Those clauses state that: "[t]he parties agree to submit any and all disputes arising out of or relating in any way to this Agreement exclusively to the jurisdiction of the United States District Court of Connecticut." Plaintiffs filed no opposition to the Motion to Transfer. By Order dated March 23, 2015, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted WWE's Motion to Transfer, noting that "[t]he plaintiffs do not oppose a transfer of venue and agree that the District of Connecticut is an appropriate forum." [Dkt. 11].

The McCullough suit was filed as a purported class action in the Central District of California on April 9, 2015. On May 14, 2015, WWE filed a Motion to Transfer Venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) due to forum-selection clauses in the contracts signed by each of the wrestlers. [Dkt. 16]. The McCullough plaintiffs opposed the Motion to Transfer, arguing that the forum selection clauses in the contracts are unconscionable under California and Connecticut law. [Dkt. 21]. On July 24, 2015, the McCullough Suit was transferred to this District after a court in the Central District of California found that the forum selection clauses in the Plaintiffs' contracts with the WWE were valid and enforceable. [Dkt. 24].

Haynes filed his own lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, purporting to be a class action. [No. 3:15-cv-0115-VLB, Dkt. 1]. Unlike the named plaintiffs in the Singleton and McCullough actions, Plaintiff Haynes did not sign a contract with a forum-selection clause limiting jurisdiction to the District of Connecticut. Nonetheless, on June 25, 2015, the District Court for the District of Oregon granted WWE's Motion to Transfer the Haynes action to this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), finding that Haynes' choice of forum was entitled to little weight since he had brought a class action on behalf of individuals throughout the United States, because of evidence of forum-shopping on the part of Plaintiff's counsel and because " forum non conveniens considerations" weighed in favor of transfer. [Dkt. 59].

In addition, Cassandra Frazier and Michelle James, decedents of former WWE wrestlers have also filed separate wrongful death actions in the Western District of Tennessee and in the Northern District of Texas. [3:15-cv-01305-VLB; 3:15-cv-01229-VLB].[3] Finally, the defendant has counter-sued in a declaratory judgment action styled World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc v. Windham, et al, No. 3:15-cv-00994 (VLB), seeking a declaration from this Court that any claims by former wrestlers similar to those of McCullough and LoGrasso are time-barred under the Connecticut statutes of limitations. The outcome of the instant motions to dismiss should therefore be dispositive as to the Windham action.

II. Standard of Review

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Sarmiento v. U.S., 678 F.3d 147 (2d Cir. 2012) ( quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, "[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotations omitted). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. ( quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . (internal citations omitted).

In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court should follow a "two-pronged approach" to evaluate the sufficiency of the complaint. Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). "A court can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.'" Id. ( quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). "At the second step, a court should determine whether the well-pleaded factual allegations, ' assumed to be true, plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'" Id. ( quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations omitted).

In general, the Court's review on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) "is limited to the facts as asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court may also consider "matters of which judicial notice may be taken" and "documents either in plaintiffs' possession or of which plaintiffs had knowledge and relied on in bringing suit." Brass v. Am. Film Techs., Inc., 987 F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir.1993); Patrowicz v. Transamerica HomeFirst, Inc., 359 F.Supp.2d 140, 144 (D. Conn. 2005).

III. Discussion

At the outset, neither the Singleton nor the McCullough plaintiffs challenge WWE's assertion that Connecticut law applies to their claims by virtue of the forum-selection clause in the contracts between the wrestlers and WWE; and plaintiffs in both cases have ...

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