With the debut of the Owen Hart episode of Dark Side of The Ring series hours away and discussion about his controversial and tragic death expected to be revived on social media afterward, his widow, Martha, has been doing interviews of late to tell her side of the story and to bring attention to the episode.
While her stance on what happened and her opinion of the company hasn't changed throughout the years, Jerry McDevitt, outside legal council of WWE, wanted to have their side represented, and did just that with statements given to CBS Sports following the release of a Hart interview they did Monday.
McDevitt, who led the WWE legal team in the case, said that how Hart talks about the lawsuit is inaccurate and that her lawyer was trying to go about things the wrong way:
"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."
In her book "Broken Harts", Hart didn't speak favorably of McDevitt and said that WWE's lawyers were claiming Kansas City police weren't being impartial in an effort to get the case heard before a different judge.
McDevitt also addressed the rift in the Hart family which Martha said was caused by Vince McMahon. McDevitt said that Martha and her lawyer attempted to get family members to sign a document to support her side in exchange for money.
"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."
Martha eventually settled for $18 million in the wrongful death settlement. McDevitt dismissed her claims that she only wanted justice and that she originally wanted $35 million and 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."
Owen Hart died on May 23, 1999, at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO, following an equipment failure while he being lowered to the ring before his match at the Over The Edge pay-per-view. He was just 34 years old.