Will the lawsuit against Vince McMahon land in arbitration? A legal expert weighs in

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Will the lawsuit facing Vince McMahon, WWE, and John Laurinaitis be decided in a courtroom in front of the public, or in the more obscured setting of arbitration? That’s the question that many are wondering after McMahon’s legal representation released a statement this week.

A preliminary statement from McMahon hopes to bring former staffer Janel Grant’s lawsuit from the courts to an arbitration meeting. The case, which was filed in January and alleges that Grant was a victim of sex trafficking, and suffered sexual assault, and physical and verbal abuse, involves the detail that she signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) at the end of her time with the company.

Per McMahon, the NDA included information that would force violations around the contract to be discussed in front of an arbitrator, not a courtroom. But things aren’t that simple: Grant’s legal team has argued from the start that the NDA she signed is no longer valid for a variety of reasons, calling into question whether it can be used as justification to take the dispute out of court.

It’s hard to tell whether the dispute will ultimately be in a courtroom. However, legal expert Jason Cruz can paint a picture of how the more immediate developments in the case might pan out.

After Grant’s legal team has the opportunity to oppose and McMahon’s side can send a reply brief, Cruz says the court might send the parties to an arbitrator to decide the next step.

“The court will decide whether it goes to arbitration or retain,” Cruz, a lawyer who writes for MMA Payout, said on Pollock & Thurston. “The judge will likely send it to arbitration. At that point, Grant’s side will have the opportunity to argue ‘No no, arbitrator, this has to go back to the court because x, y, and z.’ … And then the arbitrator can decide whether or not they can retain the case or if the case should go back to the trial court judge.”

Cruz explained the situation like passing a ball between two parties. The court can decide whether the case should go to arbitration. The arbitrator can then decide to send it back to the courts. This is to say, if the dispute heads to arbitration, it could also find its way back to a civil suit.

Both McMahon and Grant’s sides have made arguments over the validity of the NDA and how it plays into the case.

Grant’s attorney, Ann Callis, argued that the payments her client was expected to receive from the agreement stopped arriving, breaching the agreement. She also stated that Grant was coerced into signing the deal.

It has also been mentioned that the Speaking Out Act, an act that became effective in 2022 and stops NDAs from being enforced in cases of sexual assault and harassment, could prevent the contract from holding weight.

McMahon’s team has claimed that protections like the Speaking Out Act might stop NDAs from being enforced but do not explicitly block arbitration clauses in contracts from being used.

“Nothing in the text of the statute, the legislative history, or the underlying purpose of the Act suggests and Congressional intent to also render a related arbitration clause unenforceable,” McMahon’s legal team wrote in a recent filing, discussing the Speaking Out Act.

“What we’re seeing here from McMahon’s side is the argument that regardless of whether or not there was a breach, [for example] McMahon didn’t pay Grant the follow-up payments, an arbitrator must decide the case because she knowingly acknowledged that there was a clause where any dispute must go to the arbitrator, and the arbitrator will make the decision,” Cruz explained.

It’s currently impossible to know why McMahon’s team is pushing for arbitration instead of a court case. While both are possible options, there are important differences in settling contractual matters in the different settings.

“It’s a swifter process, less expensive, more secure,” Cruz said, describing arbitration. “In certain instances, you are able to choose who you are picking as the arbitrator. There are timelines that are much quicker than a court schedule.”

Another crucial difference is how public the details can be. Arbitration allows for less information to become publicly available. This might make it a less appetizing option for someone who hopes to clear their name in the public eye.

“This is all in private,” Cruz said. “Nobody can attend, this is not like open court where you can attend and make your own judgments of testimony … There will be a court stenographer for the record, but there’s nobody that will be there independent that will say ‘Hey, this is what McMahon testified to, this is what Grant testified to.'”

There are many new angles to discuss if arbitration becomes a reality. Cruz wondered how a party like John Laurintaitis, who is a co-defendant in the lawsuit but not directly involved in the NDA, would play into the scenario. “Will John Laurinaitis’ part be in this arbitration? Will he disclose his own version of events? And if so, whose side will it favor?” he thought.

But for now, the question heading forward is what setting this dispute filed by Grant against McMahon, WWE and Laurinaitis. will eventually land in.

About Jack Wannan 246 Articles
Jack Wannan is a journalist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He writes and reports on professional wrestling, along with other topics like MMA, boxing, music, local news, and more. He graduated from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]