Canadians are well known for their passion for hockey: the game is played by people of all ages and skill levels from coast to coast. But playing hockey comes with risks – players move at high speeds on a rock-hard surface, fighting for a frozen rubber projectile that can be shot at enormous velocity. As any Canadian personal injury lawyer can explain, these risk factors mean that stepping on the ice is a form of implied consent, even in non-contact leagues.
However, implied consent doesn’t mean the hockey rink is an ‘anything goes’ zone. As a recent landmark ruling by Justice Sally Gomery shows, hockey players owe one another a certain standard of care during games. Failing to meet the standard could make a player liable for another player’s injuries.
In Casterton v MacIsaac, plaintiff Drew Casterton sought compensation from defendant Gordan MacIsaac for damages incurred during the last minute of an Ottawa rec league game in March 2012. The plaintiff claimed MacIsaac blindsided him with a body check behind the net, and that he has suffered headaches, fatigue, and social problems ever since. He is unable to work or participate in athletic or recreational pursuits to the extent he once did.
Gomery ruled in the plaintiff’s favour after wading through unclear, conflicting, and in some cases unreliable witness testimony. She also accepted medical evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claims. Casterton was awarded more than $700,000 in general damages and past and future lost income, according to CTV News.
The ruling makes clear that plaintiffs do not need to prove malicious intent in civil suits around sports injuries.
“This is not the first lawsuit in Canada for injuries sustained during a hockey game,” the Justice wrote in her decision. “Courts have moved from requiring evidence of intent to harm to applying the general rules of negligence, adapting them to the context of a sport where some risk of injury is inevitable.”
“A person injured during a hockey game does not need to prove either an intent to injure or reckless disregard,” she continued, per CTV. “The injured player must simply show that the injury was caused by conduct that fell outside of what a reasonable competitor would expect in the circumstances.”
The ruling may make it easier for athletes, and the personal injury lawyer that represents them, to secure compensation for serious injuries. However, hurdles will likely remain. Players that sign waivers to participate in organized leagues will continue to face challenges, and the inherent risk associated with contact sports will also weigh on judges’ decisions.
If you or a member of your family has been injured while playing an organized sport or in any other way, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika
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