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Who is to blame when brain injuries happen at a sports facility?

While an accident can happen at anytime, participation in certain activities can increase the likelihood. For example, nearly all sports carry elements of risk for physical damage, ranging from mild contusions to severe brain injuries. If an accident occurs at a sports facility, however, can the owners of the facility be held responsible? An accident victim and the owner of an eastern Ontario resort have differing views on this subject, and are going to court to settle the matter.

On March 14, 2014, a 46-year-old woman and her three young children were snow tubing at a resort about an hour west of Ottawa. About an hour into their fun, the woman and her youngest child, a 5-year-old girl, were sliding down a hill when their tube allegedly turned around so that the pair was descending the hill backwards. The two collided with a steel pole on the hill.

The woman suffered severe injuries to her body, and spent six weeks in hospital. She also suffered brain damage that necessitated a year of rehabilitation at a centre. In a claim filed against the resort, it is stated the woman is confined to a wheelchair, having been paralyzed on her left side, and that she suffers from a variety of ailments including chronic pain, fatigue, speech impairment and more. She was unable to return to her job, and needs professional care. She is suing for more than $25 million.

For its part, the resort is denying any responsibility for what happened and claims the facility is safe. In its defence, reference was made to a waiver printed on every lift ticket, and posted publicly around the resort. It is also the contention of the resort that the woman failed to follow park rules and was tubing without a helmet.

Waivers are commonly employed by facilities like this where participation in an activity can be potentially dangerous, and it is the responsibility of participants to adhere to rules and exercise caution and good judgement. However, if it can be shown the facility was inherently unsafe, perhaps due to negligence, or poor design, there may still be a case for compensation to be made. Men and women who have suffered brain injuries while playing sports or engaging in physical activities in Ontario might wish to speak with a personal injury lawyer for advice on whether to proceed with a claim.

Source: Metro Ottawa, "Arnprior family suing Calabogie Peaks for $25-million after accident that left mother paralyzed", Haley Ritchie, Dec. 21, 2016

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