Ex-Lion Arland Bruce, Surrey resident, loses concussion lawsuit against CFL, will appeal

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of B.C. Supreme Court delivered his ruling Friday

Former CFL players Arland Bruce (right) and Larry Thompson outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Feb. 23

By Mike Beamish, Vancouver Sun

Former B.C. Lion Arland Bruce III, a Surrey resident, has lost the first round of a concussion lawsuit against the Canadian Football League, but the Vancouver lawyer representing the retired wide receiver says the legal action seeking compensation and medical treatment is far from over.

Robyn Wishart, whose area of expertise is representing plaintiffs in brain and spine cases, will launch an appeal within the allowable 30-day period and is prepared to seek redress later with the Supreme Court of Canada, if it comes to that.

“We knew it was going to go to the court of appeal either way, win or lose,” Wishart said. “The CFL would have appealed if the decision had been in Arland’s favour. There are some advantages to having lost. It’s our appeal now. We have good legal grounds to bring an appeal and take the lead. We knew we were in this for a long haul. We’re prepared to take it there (Supreme Court of Canada) if necessary.”

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of B.C. Supreme Court delivered his ruling Friday (March 11) that Bruce’s grievance against the CFL should have gone through the arbitration process established in the collective bargaining agreement with the CFL Players’ Association rather than seeking legal redress. Wishart’s argument is that Canadian common law allows an individual to pursue legal action through the courts and that Bruce’s interests weren’t protected under the CFL’s CBA.

The CFL issued a statement Friday evening saying the league was “very pleased with the court’s decision. We hope that this decision brings finality to any proceedings in the courts with respect to concussion litigation against the CFL.”

Justice Hinkson heard submissions in the case Feb. 23 and said he would hand down his ruling “sooner rather than later.” He did. Hinkson took over after Justice Brian Joyce — who reserved his decision on the first concussion lawsuit brought against the CFL by one of its players — had to step down for medical reasons.

“I don’t think he (Hinkson) started afresh, I’m sure,” Wishart said. “I expect that Mr. Justice Joyce had completed a lot of the legal analysis already. It tracks that old path. I still believe we can win this case in a court of law, not just in the court of public opinion.”

Bruce suffered a concussion playing for the Lions in a Sept. 29, 2012 game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina, and maintains he was allowed to return for a playoff game seven weeks later while still feeling the effects. He was released by the Montreal Alouettes the following year after the same disorienting symptoms persisted.

Bruce told reporters two weeks ago he is on medication, suffering from anxiety, headaches and depression and is unemployable.

“I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m looking for justice for all players,” he said.

His case will have bearing on a separate class-action lawsuit in Ontario that involves more than 200 former players dealing with post-career traumatic brain injury issues. Wishart is also representing the players against the CFL.

mbeamish@postmedia.com

 

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