(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power)

Beer-league hockey player awarded $700,000 for body check that caused head injury

Ontario court rules in a March 2012 incident in which a 36-year-old hit his head on the ice

A beer league hockey player who suffered a head injury almost eight years ago should get more than $700,000 from the player who crashed into him, an Ontario court has ruled.

The case highlights the change in how courts treat hockey injuries, the judge said in her decision.

“This is not the first lawsuit in Canada for injuries sustained during a hockey game,” Justice Sally Gomery wrote. “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.”

The case arose in March 2012, when Gordon MacIsaac body-checked Drew Casterton behind the net during the last minute of their recreational league game in Ottawa. Casterton hit his head on the ice.

MacIsaac said the collision was accidental after Casterton made a sudden turn. Casterton, 36, argued he was blindsided, and that he suffered life-altering injuries as a result.

The key issue was whether MacIsaac was liable for the injuries, and whether Casterton himself had done anything to contribute to his misfortune.

Gomery cited earlier cases in which judges have noted that hockey involves violent body contact as well as blows from pucks and sticks. As a result, players can’t be judged according to the rules of polite social discourse.

At the same time, she said, courts have also found that it’s not a matter of ‘anything goes’ when players step onto the ice.

“A person injured during a hockey game does not need to prove either an intent to injure or reckless disregard,” Gomery said. “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.”

In dispute was what exactly happened in the runup to Casterton’s injuries during the game between his Pirates and Tiger Cats of the Ontario Senior Men’s Hockey League. Although a rec league, most players were former Carleton University students in their late 20s who were experienced and skilled players, court documents show.

Various witnesses gave conflicting testimony, not surprising given the length of time since the incident, their vantage points at the time, and team loyalties, the judge noted.

After sorting through the testimony — some of which she rejected outright as unreliable — Gomery decided that MacIsaac, a defenceman, had deliberately skated toward Casterton at high speed and at an angle where the forward could not see him. MacIsaac further positioned himself to maximize bodily contact with an unprepared Casterton, she found.

The hit, Gomery concluded, was either deliberate or reckless. Regardless, she said, MacIsaac would be liable for Casterton’s injuries for failing to meet the standard of care applicable to a hockey player in the circumstances. The injured Casterton, she concluded, did nothing wrong or negligent.

RELATED: Former WHL captain sues Canadian hockey leagues over head trauma

“Every player who testified stated that a blindside hit to the face is, and was, outside the bounds of fair play,” Gomery said. “They have no place in recreational play, or in any hockey game.”

In all, Gomery awarded Casterton $702,551 for general damages and past and future loss of income.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Qualicum school district board reiterates support for 8-lane track at Ballenas Secondary

Officials pen another letter to Regional District of Nanaimo to clarify position

Cinema society concerned about bus garage property sale in Qualicum Beach

Group planned on commissioning a feasibility study for multi-use cinema

Women assaulted in pair of weekend attacks in Port Alberni

RCMP say no reason to suspect attacks are related, but suspects still at large

VIDEO: Canada’s first presumptive case of coronavirus officially confirmed

Both patient and wife arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

First-place Canucks beat Blues 3-1 for ninth straight home win

Miller nets pair as Vancouver defeats Cup champs

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Police search for man who went missing from Vernon hotel

Jay Rosenberger, 38, was last seen Friday

Filming for Resident Alien begins in Ladysmith

Aliens and excitement take over the streets of Ladysmith during new TV series

NDP suggests easing secondary housing rules for B.C. farmland

Lana Popham proposes guest homes not just for relatives

After four sexual assaults in the same B.C. park, RCMP ask women not to walk alone

Four sexual assaults took place in Glen Park over two months

The Three Bears are down to two after baby bear carving stolen from his perch in Island community

Thief repeatedly kicked it and dislodged it from cement and rebar

Most Read