Waiver Blocks Hockey-Playing Lawyer From Winning Injury Lawsuit
We wrote recently about unusual Ontario case in which the support-paying father had been locked up in jail for defaulting on his child support payments. An added twist was that the father was himself a lawyer, and – as the court found – “knows or should know the potential consequences of his behaviour”.
We also wrote recently about a Quebec decision in which a teen hockey player was awarded $8 million for paralyzing injuries he sustained on-ice after a body check by an opposing player.
Today’s blog features a case that is something of an intersection between these two: it involves a recreational hockey player – who also happened to be a lawyer – who unsuccessfully sued another player and the league for injuries sustained during a non-contact game, due mainly because of a liability waiver that he freely signed.
In Levita v. Crew and True North Hockey Canada an adult rec hockey player named Levita sustained a fractured right tibia after being checked into the boards from behind during a game by an opposing player named Crew. Even though he had signed a standard-form liability waiver that absolved the league from liability for precisely that sort of player conduct, Levita sued; he contended that league had negligently tolerated rough play amongst the teams, and failed to take steps to protect him from dangerous players like Crew.
Levita’s $100,000 damages claim against both Crew and the league was dismissed. As a condition of playing in the non-contact league, Levita and every other player had signed a waiver at the beginning of the season, releasing the league from liability for “any and all claims” that players may have against True North Hockey Canada as well as its directors, sponsors, employees, volunteers, and the arena itself. The league also had a documented policy and system from imposing and tracking players’ on-ice penalties.
In evaluating whether the opponent Crew was negligent, the court had to consider the nature of the activity itself, as well as the perils that participants would reasonably be expected to encounter. It found that the inherent risks in the game of hockey – even in a non-contact league – include bodily contact. Absent conduct by Crew which went well beyond what was acceptable (for example an intent to cause deliberate injury)
Levita had accepted certain risks by agreeing to play hockey, including the risk that he might suffer injuries.
Turning next to the league’s liability, the court concluded that the waiver was a complete defence even if the league was found to be negligent. Even though no one from the league had explained it to Levita, its wording was unambiguous and it was legally effective to protect the league from injury-related claims. In short, Levita had assumed the full physical and risks of playing in the True North league.
For the full text of the decision, see:
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