(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power)

(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

Greater Vernon Water rates will increase an average of 2.4 per cent over the next four years after the Regional District of North Okanagan adopted a new water rate bylaw on Wednesday, Nov. 18. (File photo)
Regional District North Okanagan approves four-year water rate bylaw

Water rates for Greater Vernon Water users to climb an average of 2.4 per cent over the four years

A new primary health clinic at the Okanagan Indian Band Health Centre is now providing members with doctors on reserve. (Stock photo)
New Okanagan Indian Band primary care clinic now accepting patients

The clinic is giving OKIB members access to doctors and nurses on reserve

Sylvia Showers of Lumby is one of the 35 artists featured at Artsolutely, the 15th annual sale at the Vernon Community Arts Centre on daily Nov. 28-Dec. 24. (Contributed)
Artsolutely makes shopping local easy in Vernon

15th annual event features 35 artists and runs for 27 days

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

Cranbrook business and property owners are encouraged to flush their water lines ahead of reopening. All it takes is running the cold water tap for several minutes. (Cranbrook Townsman file)
UPDATE: Water advisory issued on Westside

Westshore Estates leak repair causes need to flush system

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Central Okanagan Public Schools administration office in Kelowna. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed in 5 more Central Okanagan schools

All people who tested positive for the virus are self isolating at home

Penticton Law Courts
Bail hearing for Penticton man charged with sex assault, forcible confinement

Robert Sauve is facing more than 10 criminal charges

Revelstoke RCMP warn of scam after two people targeted in one day. (Black Press file photo)
Revelstoke RCMP warn of scammer pulling at heart strings

Two people in Revelstoke targeted in one day by person posing as a loved one

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP investigate suspected arson at Shuswap hunting camp

Suspicious fire took place by Scotch Creek forest service road on Oct. 24

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

A worker at Kelowna Airport has tested positive for COVID-19. (File)
Kelowna airport worker tests positive for COVID-19

Individual, who works as a screener, was asked to self-isolate, at which time they tested positive

An assault charge has been filed after a 10-year-old boy was allegedly struck with a watermelon at a Shuswap campsite in August . (File photo)
Alberta woman facing assault charge after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Shuswap campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Most Read