It is another stiff neck and stiff back morning. While skating in a roller derby game last week I wound up going THROUGH a wooden rail. So, thanks to that and some rather physical pack play, I had what I call the “Roger Murtaugh” moment. Named after the police detective played by Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon series who would intone at various points, “I’m getting too old for this sh**”.
Fortunately, I am not too old to write. So let us return to the topic at hand. As you will recall from our first post in this series, “Captain Redneck” Dick Murdock attacked Ted Dibiase before Dibiase’s NWA World Title match against Ric Flair. The attack left Dibiase bloody and weakened and he eventually lost his match against Flair. Murdock then attacked Dibiase after the match, putting him out of action for almost two months. (Note: Well, out of action in this country. He seemed fine in Japan). So our question is, what damages could Ted Dibiase seek from Murdock based on the torts committed?
Compensatory damages are the actual damages suffered by a party at the hands of the individual or entity who caused the harm. In this case, Dibiase has a claim against Murdock for his physical injuries. For Murdock this is where his second attack, concluding with a brainbuster on the concrete floor, can become costly. They took Dibiase away for medical care. His medical bills are obviously a concern and he should certainly have sought compensation from Murdock for his injuries.
The injuries to Dibiase may be greater than just one concussion and one incredibly bloody laceration and Dibiase has a wide number of possible damages he can seek compensation for.
For example, Dibiase had to wrestle for the most prestigious prize in the sport while in a damaged state. A damaged state that but for Murdock, would not have happened. Arguably this injured state cost him his chance at winning the NWA World Title and all of the benefits that come with it. Greater fame, larger payoffs, greater historical relevance. Based on those claims, then Dibiase could be expected to present evidence that establishes the potential financial windfall an NWA champion can receive during and after their reign. This would likely require expert testimony from former champions or NWA officials and promoters to establish a financial value of holding that championship ay any point in one’s career.
Dick Murdock would hardly have to take those claims lying down. Though he would most likely concede that his actions constituted a civil battery and would likely admit liability, he would not concede the issue of damages. We could anticipate a defense that was essentially, “Yeah I did it, but so what?”
First, the Murdock legal team would likely argue that Murdock was only liable for the medical damages and for the pay-offs Dibiase would have received for his then-scheduled matches. The defense would emphasize that any other damages are speculative at best. The defense would argue that it is highly speculative and wishful thinking to think that but for Mr. Murdock’s actions, Mr. Dibiase would have won the NWA World Title. After all, Flair was in his third official title reign, universally regarded as one of the greatest champions ever, and most of the top wrestlers in the world had tried and failed to wrest the title from his grasp. This list includes such luminaries as Magnum T.A., Butch Reed, Nikita Koloff, Bruiser Brody, Kevin Von Erich, Tully Blanchard, Billy Robinson, Jerry “the King Lawler”, four former NWA world champions (Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rich and Kerry Von Erich), and the reigning American Wresting Association Champion (Rick Martel). And that was just in October.
Accordingly, the Murdock defense would point out that even Dibiase at 100% was not likely to overcome the high burden for winning the title. And the defense would certainly emphasize how difficult it is to beat ANY champion. In fact, had Dibiase won his match in the same fashion that he lost, a count-out, he still would not have become the NWA World Champion. The rules allowed title changes only via pinfall or submission. Based upon the high number of disqualifications NWA World champions had from approximately 1977 on, this made it even more difficult to win the championship.
The defense would also point out that even if Dibiase lost only because of Murdock’s actions, there is no way of determining how long Dibiase would hold the title. Dibiase would not have continued with his known wrestling schedule but instead would continue with Flair’s scheduled title defenses. This means that he would be facing individuals he may not have been properly prepared for. As anyone can tell you, a match against Billy Robinson and a match against Crusher Blackwell will be two very different matches. The defense would also point out that the grueling schedule of a touring champion combined with the stress of being the main event on every card could wear anyone down.
Dibiase would argue that his international experience and vast wrestling knowledge, including prior victories over many of the scheduled challengers, means that he reasonably could have expected a title reign that was at least of average length. At that time, the average title reign was approximately 781 days. Therefore, Dibiase would argue that the formula for damages should be the champion’s percentage of each approximate gate of each NWA world title defense for the 781 days after his match with Flair. Whether that would work or not depends on the jury. Were I Murdock’s counsel, I certainly would want this case out of Louisiana and Oklahoma, but that is another issue for another day.
As you can see, though the legal system does not provide for the same kind of catharsis or retribution for a tort that beating a man up in the squared circle provides, it does have its own drama and battles to enjoy.