KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (11/14)
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Colt Cabana (real name Scott Colton), who once said “I’m on Team Punk forever” during a podcast interview with C.M. Punk in November 2014, is now suing C.M. Punk (real name Phil Brooks).
In a lawsuit filed earlier this week in Cook County Circuit Court, Cabana is seeking $1.2 million, including $200,000 in legal fees and $1 million in punitive and exemplary damages related to a lawsuit filed by WWE physician Dr. Christopher Amman against him and Punk in 2015. The lawsuit went to trial earlier this summer; the jury ruled in Cabana and Punk’s favor.
Cabana contends he wouldn’t have even had to defend himself in court had Punk not promised to pay his legal fees, only to later renege on the promise. In December 2014, Dr. Amman sent a letter to Cabana demanding he retract and withdraw his controversial “Art of Wrestling” podcast interview with Punk published the previous month.
The podcast focused primarily on Punk’s reasons for quitting WWE ten months earlier and included Punk explaining why he believed his treatment by WWE’s medical team fell well short of acceptable standards regarding a staph infection and concussions, among other issues.
Amman contended that during the podcast Punk defamed him and that Cabana provided a forum and distributed the interview, all while knowing Punk had made false statements. Amman formally sued Punk and Cabana in February 2015. A jury disagreed with Amman, but Cabana and Punk spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees defending themselves.
In the lawsuit filed by Cabana this week, Cabana produced text messages from December 2014 in which Punk told him that he would be “100 percent covered” regarding his legal fees in the matter of Amman.
In March 2015, Cabana formally agreed to be represented by Punk’s attorneys, and the letter he signed expressly said Punk would be paying his legal fees. Punk, in April 2016, demanded Cabana to pay half of what were then $513,736 in accrued legal fees – totaling $256,868. In an email, Punk wrote to Cabana:
“Starting now, I will no longer be paying your bills. You are on your own. Whatever my bill is currently, will be cut in half, and half will be yours. If you choose to make this all ugly, that’s fine too. I hope you won’t, but I gave up on you doing what is right a long time ago.”
Cabana did not start paying the bills. Instead, two months later, Punk and his attorney informed Cabana they would continue to represent Cabana after all because it was in all of their best interests, and they wouldn’t charge him. Cabana accepted the offer.
Then ten months later, in March 2017, Cabana says Punk again withdrew the offer to pay for their lawyer. Cabana then hired his own attorney. Those subsequent legal fees Cabana was charged by his attorney then came to $200,000.
Another key reason Cabana cites for suing Punk not only for actual billed legal fees, but also additional punitive and exemplary damages, is because Cabana believes he could have avoided even being included in the lawsuit had he complied with Dr. Amman’s initial requests in December 2014 before Amman formally sued him in February 2015. Amman initially in the December 2014 letter asked Cabana to remove the podcasts from public accessibility and distribution and also agree to retract claims made in the podcast “in a manner and form to be agreed upon.”
Cabana claims that had Punk not agreed to “100 percent” cover his legal fees, he would have complied with Dr. Amman’s initial demands and thus would not have been included as a defendant in the lawsuit filed two months later, and thus wouldn’t have incurred legal fees of $200,000.
Cabana is suing for an additional $1 million in punitive and exemplary damages based on claiming Punk fraudulently offered to cover Cabana’s legal fees to prevent Cabana from complying with the Demand Letter. The lawsuit alleges that Punk’s purpose in offering to cover Cabana’s legal fees initially was to “induce [Cabana] to not retain substitute counsel who might make a separate agreement to settle the Amman Lawsuit and thereafter cooperate with Amman’s counsel in connection with the continued prosecution of the Amman Lawsuit against [Punk].”
The lawsuit claims “Brooks acted with fraud, malice, and oppression toward Colton, with the deliberate intention of causing Colton harm.” The lawsuit claims that Punk asked Cabana to give him the forum to speak and initiated the idea for the podcast.
In the podcast episode that caused all of this, Colt applauded Punk for being “so good about not exploding” about his frustrations with his experience working in WWE before appearing on his podcast. Punk said he went large periods of “going dark” on Twitter after first leaving WWE because he didn’t want to talk about it publicly until he decided to sit down with longtime friend Cabana on his “Art of Wrestling” podcast. Cabana said he was giving Punk a chance to get stuff off his chest by having him on his podcast. Cabana said, as he introduced the conversation with Punk, “I’m obviously biased; I’m on Team Punk forever.” Punk encouraged Cabana to disagree with him on anything he hears. Punk then did the vast majority of the talking, which started with Punk saying he didn’t want to just trash WWE and admitted he wasn’t always the easiest guy to deal with. He went on to tell his story, with the comments about Dr. Amman leading to the lawsuit Amman filed against both Punk and Cabana months later.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported on the story which includes a PDF of the actual lawsuit.
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