Injuries frequently arise while playing sports, and sometimes they can be very serious. For example, if the injured party is unable to work after sustaining the injury or they need help with the costs of ongoing care and medical treatment, they may need to consider bringing a personal injury claim for compensation.

The claims process can be complicated if the injury has been sustained as a result of playing a sports game. This article considers some of the nuances that may arise during these cases. It also reviews a recent decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which shows that all is not necessarily lost for those who have suffered a personal injury due to sports.

Did you sign a waiver?

In personal injury claims resulting from car accidents, determining the parties against which to bring a claim is often easy. However, when an individual has been injured while playing a sport, it is important to first consider whether the venue and/or association might be liable.

Under British Columbia’s Occupiers Liability Act, an occupier of premises owes a duty to take reasonable care to see that a person will be reasonably safe in using the premises. An “occupier” is broadly defined to mean a person in physical possession of premises or with responsibility for and control over the premises. However, this duty does not apply where an occupier is permitted by law to exclude it and does so “by express agreement, or by express stipulation or notice,” provided that they take reasonable steps to bring the exclusion to the person’s attention.

This raises the question as to whether the sports participant signed a waiver or release or was otherwise warned of the risks inherent in the game. Depending on its particular terms, the signed document may release the occupier from their duty and prevent a successful claim.

Did you consent to the risk of harm?

Depending on the circumstances and the type of sport, players may engage in conduct that could lead to an injury. So, how careful do players need to be to avoid causing injury? Specifically, is the standard of care lower than it would otherwise be because the risk of injury is impliedly accepted by players by virtue of their decision to play the game?

Some provinces require more than merely careless conduct for a successful claim

Courts in provinces across the country, including Manitoba and Ontario, have held that carelessness on the part of another player is not sufficient to create liability. Individuals who engage in certain types of sports have typically accepted some risk of accidental harm.

Therefore, evidence that conduct was intentional or reckless, such as deliberately intending to cause injury, is required to prove a successful compensation claim.

This approach dates back to the 1965 decision from Manitoba Queen’s Bench in Agar v. Canning, where the Court stated that:

“Each case must be decided on its own facts, so it is difficult, if not impossible, to decide how the line is to be drawn in every circumstance. But injuries inflicted in circumstances which show a definite resolve to cause serious injury to another, even when there is provocation and in the heat of the game, should not fall within the scope of the implied consent.”

A recent decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia shows that courts in this province approach these claims differently.

Plaintiff injured his shoulder after a slide tackle by the defendant

In Miller v. Cox, the plaintiff dislocated his shoulder in a North Vancouver recreational soccer match due to the defendant’s tackle.

The plaintiff was heading toward the goal with the ball when he was slide tackled by the defendant. Slide tackles were permitted under the FIFA rules used in the match, but the defendant was given a yellow card, and the plaintiff’s team received a penalty.

No need to show reckless disregard or intention to cause injury in British Columbia

Justice Baker cited authority for the view that British Columbia courts take a different approach to their counterparts in some other parts of the country:

“… the “west coast” approach considers whether the actions of the defendant comport with what a “reasonable competitor” would do in the circumstances. Put another way; a plaintiff need only establish carelessness on the part of the defendant to establish liability.”

While the element of risk accepted as part of the game is to be taken into account, there is no need for a plaintiff in British Columbia to show that the defendant recklessly disregarded the plaintiff’s safety or intended to cause harm.

Defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s injury

The defendant argued that he did not intend to injure the plaintiff and did not perform the tackle recklessly or in an unsafe manner. He noted that the rules allowed slide tackles and argued that the plaintiff accepted the risk of injury.

After hearing evidence from other players and the referee, her Honour decided that the defendant’s tackle was dangerous and reckless. While slide tackles were allowed, the execution of this tackle was outside the rules. The defendant was negligent as he took both the plaintiff’s legs out, knowing this could result in injury. Further, there was no chance of getting the ball, and he was in the plaintiff’s blind spot.

As a result, the defendant was held liable for the plaintiff’s injury. The Court awarded damages to the plaintiff of $103,764.11.

Contact the Lawyers at Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Trusted Representation in Personal Injury Claims

The experienced personal injury lawyers at Meridian Law Group in Vancouver support their clients in the Lower Mainland and throughout British Columbia when injury strikes due to someone else’s negligence. Whether you’ve been hurt as a result of a sports match, slip and fall, motor vehicle accident or in some other way, let us advocate for you and work towards recovering the maximum compensation for your injuries. To schedule an initial consultation with a member of our personal injury team, contact us at 604-687-2277 or reach out to us online.