Arland Bruce loses appeal in concussion lawsuit against CFL

Former CFL receiver Arland Bruce has lost the latest round of his concussion-related lawsuit.

In a ruling released Friday, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision that the issues raised in Bruce’s lawsuit are part of a collective bargaining agreement between the league and the CFL Players’ Association.

The judge dismissed the case in March, 2016, saying those issues must be resolved through the grievance and arbitration process, not the courts.

The defendants included the league, former commissioner Mark Cohon, neuroscientist Dr. Charles Tator, the Canadian Football League Alumni Association and every team in the league.

The CFL issued the following statement Friday afternoon:

The CFL is very pleased with the Court of Appeal’s decision.  We hope that this decision brings finality to any proceedings in the courts with respect to concussion litigation against the CFL. We will have no further comment at this time.

Bruce played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, B.C. Lions and Montreal Alouettes over the course of his 14 year career.
He was part of Grey Cup winning teams in Toronto in 2004 and with the B.C. Lions in 2011.

The former wide receiver first filed his lawsuit in July 2014, claiming the defendants downplayed the effects of repetitive head trauma and misrepresented player safety issues about concussions.

His lawsuit claimed Bruce was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion while playing for the Lions in September 2012 and he reported fogginess, headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, memory loss, confusion, dizziness, anxiety and personality changes.

Court documents alleged he was permitted to return to play in November of that year and then again for the Alouettes in the 2013 season despite still suffering from the effects of concussion.

The lawsuit stated that the CFL should have intervened and prevented Bruce from returning to the field. Bruce alleged that he has suffered permanent disability, and his head injury will continue to cause earnings loss along as well as the loss of enjoyment of life.

The CFL is also facing a $200-million class action lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court last May by former players Korey Banks and the league Eric (The Flea) Allen.

– with files from CP.

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18 Comments on Arland Bruce loses appeal in concussion lawsuit against CFL

  1. mrnehnehincognito // May 12, 2017 at 2:52 pm //

    To me it all comes down to the same thing. Personal choice. You choose to smoke, you choose to eat at McDonald’s everyday, you choose to play professional football. It’s interesting how no one speaks out while they are living the dream. Instead they wait until there football earning power is gone.
    Mr Bruce is as complicit in this as the league,teams,coaches,trainers,doctors. How often did he down play an injury (Head or otherwise) because is competitive fires overruled personal harm to his body (all high level athletes do). How many times was he willing to take a pain killer rather than determining the source of pain?. Did he ever express concerns about his symptoms? Did he seek outside consultation/council when told he was good to play?

    • "HAWKS" // May 12, 2017 at 4:13 pm //

      Well said.

    • Don’t always agree with your posts but that’s ok this is an open discussion board and an exchange of view points should be welcome. I totally agree with you on this though, well said. If you choose a profession know the risks involved period. It’s football every hit or every tackle is like being in a car crash physically. If you don’t realise going in that your body will take a beating then….. It’s like a hockey player suing because he lost his front teeth.

  2. Stephen Fisher // May 12, 2017 at 3:41 pm //

    The CFL is a job where you are more likely to be badly hurt, in fact over a career you’re pretty much guaranteed to be badly hurt, and where the protections normally found for employment are among the worst.

    I have a lot of sympathy for players like Jonathon Hefney and A Bruce III, who sustained life altering injuries and r then just discarded. We fans of course did not hear the evidence presented at trial, but if the league suppressed concussion information to the detriment of players, I think there should be compensation for that behavior.

    To mrnehneh I would reply that I agree players must accept some risks when they play the game, but if certain risks r concealed from them, how can they agree to them?

    • mrnehnehincognito // May 12, 2017 at 3:55 pm //

      If it’s proven he was purposely given misinformation and teams willfully and purposely placed his life in danger than I agree with you. Can that be proven? Perhaps teams really didn’t know the danger. Perhaps it was deemed there was no danger. Perhaps Mr Bruce was told the risks and decided on his own to play. Again I think players all know the risk of the sport.

  3. mrnehnehincognito // May 12, 2017 at 3:59 pm //

    Here’s a question. If you were a high prospect and had to sign a waiver claiming you fully understood the risks and understand you can be misdiagnosed and might be forced to play when not fully healthy how many would walk away?

  4. I think (actually I know) you’re all missing the point. It is well established in Canadian law that a dispute that sits within the four corners of a collective agreement are required to be litigated within the provisions of the labour abitration regime set out in the prevailing labour code. That’s all this says.

    These players are covered by a collective agreement that contains health and welfare provisions. The courts are therefore without jurisdiction to hear the case (except on reconsideration). The players need to pursue a grievance and, if unresolved, need to have it arbitrated. If the CFLPA failed to negotiate appropriate safeguards into the collective agreement and can be shown to have acted in an arbitrary fashion in doing so, then the players have recourse to the duty of fair representation provisions of the respective labour code.

    Nothing in this decision has anything to do with whether football is dangerous and whether the players have rights to litigate over injuries suffered. This is about the proper forum and the BCCA, like the BCSC before it, are absolutely correct in their assessment.

    The decision is linked in the article. Maybe you want to try reading it.

    • mrnehnehincognito // May 12, 2017 at 4:16 pm //

      Thanks Quint. If I ever need legal advice I’ll come to you. I think you’ll speak well in the legal jargon but fall well short on the pragmatic aspects

    • mrnehnehincognito // May 12, 2017 at 4:20 pm //

      Let me guess Quint. You are from BC or Ontario? At least you are employed in a industry that relies on unions and bureaucracy to keep you safe

      • He’s probably a lawyer, and therefore not likely covered by a collective agreement – unless he works for the government.

        • @mrnehnehincognito actually it’s not jargon. It’s fairly simple. Our courts are not experts in labour relations and the court dockets don’t need to be filled with cases that are more appropriately handled by arbitrators and labour boards. That’s why the Supreme Court of Canada limited the jurisdiction of the courts and why the BC Courts were right to punt Bruce’s case.

          You chose, with the first comment on this article, to make it an argument about personal accountability for the decision to play football. I responded to you (and others) because that is irrelevant to the article and the Bruce decision(s). That doesn’t make anything I say impractical, you just want all the comments to be about your soapbox.

          @ExPat, I am not a lawyer but I am labour relations practitioner. I negotiate collective agreements (on the management side) for a living and have hand thousands of grievances and other disputes representing the employer. And, I am not covered by any collective agreement (a pretty clear conflict of interest).

          • mrnehnehincognito // May 12, 2017 at 10:02 pm //

            That may be Quint but regardless of whether the courts, arbitrators or labor boards should preside over it, this is a man choosing to make a complaint and trying to hold other parties liable for his choices. THAT’S THE ISSUE AND DEBATE OF HEAD INJURIES IN PRO FOOTBALL. Not the technical and logistic aspects of our justice system and bureaucracy.

          • Billinburlington // May 12, 2017 at 11:59 pm //

            Thanks Quint for explaining the legal point of view…it was very helpful.

            I wonder whether Bruce’s legal team will review the judgement with a view to possibly finding an error in law – thereby opening a door to appeal? Time will tell if they are able to find one that provides a strong enough argument to risk the costs of potentially losing the appeal.

  5. JJ Murphy // May 12, 2017 at 9:51 pm //

    Thanks for the contribution Quint, you are spot on.

  6. Bottom line is the sport is a violent sport and occupation. Every player deserves to be protected by his employer in ever way possible. If there is any indication of a concussion they must be removed from the game and given the best treatment possible. Simple as that!

  7. DundasDude // May 13, 2017 at 5:26 am //

    Good comments. I agree with all (except, respectfully S Fisher). We are now aware of the health risks and need to figure out how to protect these young men. I love football, but if we cannot figure out how to minimize these risks, then I have no interest in supporting this sport. Incredible athletes pushing the bounds are always going to be at risk, but one play I’d like to see eliminated is when a db tries to separate a receiver from the ball. I guess we don’t know how effective the current protocols are until the distant future. As with the use of performance enhancing drugs, it is not worth it. I strongly support individual choice but I will not encourage something that injures people. Football needs to change or go the way of jousting.

  8. Sound&Valid // May 14, 2017 at 8:28 am //

    Ridiculous comment by Dundasdude. Every sport that requires movement has the potential consequence of injuring people. Players can break bones and pull muscles and ligaments by falling awkwardly and making quick sudden movements that they wouldn’t do if they did not participate in sports. Should we ban all sports because it can injure people who participate… That’s nuts. Should we ban driving because people have been injured or died in crashes. Your logic is totally wrong.
    There is some contradictory science. Some doctors have recently come out saying that you should exercise and exert yourself after a suspected concussion and not just rest in a dark room as treatment.

    • DundasDude // May 17, 2017 at 10:16 pm //

      Sound&valid: NOWHERE in my post did I say “ban” but rather “I will not encourage something that injures people”. Individual choice is key which is why I have every right not to support something. You misrepresented what I said.

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