(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

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Skeena Bulkley Valley MP calling for halt on sport fishing licenses to out-of-province fishers

Bachrach and Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns co-signed the letter to the Minister of Fisheries

Bella Coola Heli Sports closed, says no confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in their operation

The company has committed to informing the community if a case is reported

COVID-19 case confirmed at Subway restaurant in Cache Creek

Customers who visited the site from March 25 to 27 are asked to self-isolate

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and PPE for health care workers remains best line of defense

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

How to cope with your mental health during a global pandemic

Becca Shears, clinical counsellor in Vanderhoof speaks about ways to deal with stress and anxiety during this time.

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Most Read