Legal liabilities in sports are dictated by other tort claims governed by the law. A tort claim focuses on the damages suffered by a victim due to the wrongful act of another resulting in physical or emotional injury. Wrongdoing in a game could result in equally serious consequences as an incident outside the sport, regardless of the game rules. While lawsuits of this kind tend to be unique depending on the game and the event, they can come with severe consequences. Every player is meant to follow the rules to ensure everyone’s safety, and aggressive contact isn’t part of the game, no matter the sport.
Casterton v. MacIsaac
A sports liability case began in March 2012 in which the plaintiff and defendant were both recreational hockey players in Ottawa. It is noted that Drew Casterton was circling behind the net during the last minute of the game when he was body-checked by Gordon MacIsaac, a player on the other team. Casterton’s head hit the ice, and he alleges that he began to suffer life-altering injuries as a result. These included headaches, fatigue, intolerance of social interactions, and an inability to work or engage in activities as he once did.
MacIsaac argued that the other player made a sudden turn, and the collision was an accident. After the evidence was presented to Justice Sally Gomery, she weighed the credibility of each side and concluded in 2020 that MacIsaac had deliberately skated at Casterton when he was in a vulnerable position, unable to see him coming. As a result, the hit was considered reckless and outside the rules of the game.The ultimate penalty resulted in $700,000 of compensation for Casterton. This monumental verdict showcases the severe outcomes that cases like these seek to highlight, the life-altering changes and the expensive circumstances of recreational injuries.
Acknowledging the Consequences of Sport Liabilities
Violent incidents are rare in recreational hockey, but they do happen. Justice Gomery remarked in her decision: “This is not the first lawsuit in Canada for injuries sustained during a hockey game.” Although sports can sometimes lead to brutal contact for players, especially in hockey, dangerous incidents are not in the rules of these games. It’s a misconception to assume that all fighting, or any roughhousing, can be considered acceptable from a personal safety standpoint.
While some sports allow various kinds of misconduct for the sake of the game and as an additional interest to the audience, it is still possible a sports liability could take place. Acts of reckless and violent behaviour can have serious consequences for players, and for those who deem such actions acceptable.
Sports Liability and Personal Injury Claims
When someone injured in any capacity decides to bring forward a lawsuit, there are specific conditions, including torts, that need to be met so that they can succeed in their claim. In the case of sports injuries, Gomery noted her decision weighed on the concept that the plaintiff did not need to necessarily prove intent to injure or reckless disregard, but rather that the injury was caused by conduct that fell outside what a reasonable competitor would expect in the circumstances.
Each case handled under any circumstances will always be unique to the situation, but Gomery’s statement does present a precedent that could help determine other outcomes for similar lawsuits. Despite legal liabilities in sports becoming more prevalent, they can still be difficult to navigate alone.
If you or someone you know has been injured due to or following a recreational sporting event, we recommend speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer.
At Bergeron Clifford, we understand the example that a unique case like Casterton v. MacIsaac can set. Tort claims, particularly those that involve sports liability, require the expertise of a team like ours that understands the unique circumstances of these lawsuits. This is increasingly important if you are dealing with waivers of liability for sporting and recreational injuries, which are meant to absolve organizers of responsibility in the event that their negligence caused you an injury. We believe that you have rights as a victim and may even be entitled to financial compensation. Reach out to us to learn more.