Arland Bruce loses final appeal in concussion lawsuit against CFL

The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the case of a former Canadian Football League star who wanted to sue the league over concussion trauma.

Two lower courts in British Columbia dismissed the suit filed by Arland Bruce III, saying the Supreme Court previously ruled that unionized employees must use labour arbitration – not the courts – to resolve disputes that arise from their collective agreement.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t saddened and surprised,” said Robyn Wishart, Bruce’s lawyer. “I’m surprised because I thought they’d hear it.”

The CFL said it was happy with Thursday’s outcome.

“The CFL is very pleased with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision,” the league said in a statement. “We hope that this decision brings finality to any proceedings in the courts with respect to concussion litigation against the CFL.”

Wishart said she’ll now take Bruce’s case to arbitration.

Bruce started in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2001 and finished his career in 2014 as a member of the Montreal Alouettes after stints with the Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and B.C. Lions.

He argued that he sustained “permanent and disabling” repetitive head trauma as a player.

In court documents, Bruce says he continues to suffer post-concussive symptoms, including depression, paranoia, delusions and other medical issues.

As usual in decisions on leaves to appeal, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for refusing to hear the case.

– CP

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16 Comments on Arland Bruce loses final appeal in concussion lawsuit against CFL

  1. What an asinine waste of time and money by Bruce and his lawyer.

    Courts do not have jurisdiction to hear employee/employer claims when there’s a collective agreement in place – – this is common knowledge and has been the case for many years for all unionized employees in every sector.

    • Cal Gary Shampeders // March 15, 2018 at 12:32 pm //

      “In court documents, Bruce says he continues to suffer post-concussive symptoms, including depression, paranoia, delusions and other medical issues.”

      His delusions about there being a god and his paranoia about what that mythical deity would do to him were present well before he played pro football. They are the sign of a very, very poor if all-to-common upbringing. Why should the CFL be held responsible for what his parents and church did to him???

  2. @Area51, completely agree. The SCC cleared up any confusion in this area many years ago and it is good public policy for it to remain so. Disputes arising from within the four corners of a collective agreement are the exclusive purview of expert administrative tribunals.

    However, this highlights what a terrible job the CFLPA has done representing players’ interests for decades. While it finally appears that the CFLPA has effective leadership, they are so far behind where they should be that the challenge may be insurmountable.

  3. Arland Bruce might have lost, but the CFL and CFLPA will change and evolve from this. He was an incredibly talented receiver and I want to remember him for this… although he could be a showboater lol

  4. remember the spiderman mask, lol

  5. Margaret Marshall // March 15, 2018 at 11:39 am //

    I hope Arland Bruce has the best medical support he is a young man with a cloudy future due to neurological issues. The Players Association should be helping him redirect to the services he needs

  6. Cal Gary Shampeders // March 15, 2018 at 12:29 pm //

    “Alouettes’ Arland Bruce III tells gay NFL prospect Michael Sam to ‘submit to God fully’ in crude Instagram post.”

    The homophobe deserved every concussion he ever received and then some.
    Bye-bye Arland.

  7. Important // March 15, 2018 at 12:32 pm //

    I’m not sure concussions are well addressed in a collective agreement unless the agreement is supported by clinical oversight. And although the BC Court Appeal defined this issue under a collective agreement, it should not be considered a frivolous application for leave as the issue of concussion in sport is certainly an issue of National importance. Bruce didn’t lose his SCC case per se, it was simply dismissed, as 90% of most cases for permission for leave are. Nor should it be considered a decision that addresses this issue as final. Although Bruce may not be able to take this case any further before the courts should not suggest that a class action couldn’t be filed if more cases of the same nature came forward under one file.

    Perhaps it’s publicly available, but if not, I would be curious to see if the CFL would release the portion of their collective agreement that specifically addresses concussions and their responsibility of creating a safe work place – irregardless of the fact that football is a demanding physical sport, and the associated risks thereof.

    • Collective Agreements are public documents and you might try using Google … it’s pretty easy. No Collective Agreement would specify a specific workplace injury, but Article 15.05 specifically provides for the grievance process to be used to resolve disputes around whether a player was terminated due to injury and what compensation they are entitled to. Article 16 is all about health and welfare benefits.

      The courts are absolutely right. This is completely captured by the Collective Agreement. That the CFLPA has not secured an appropriate level of benefits is a bargaining issue and our courts are not a place to intervene because of bad representation by a union. That’s why unions are democracies … if they do a crappy job, vote in new leadership. That the CFL players have been so lackadaisical and the CFLPA ineffective is the players job to fix, not the courts.

      • And how much pie is there to go around really? This isn’t the deep pockets of the NFL? CLFPA can only extract what the market will allow?

    • A class action would yield the same fruitless result as this attempt by Bruce did.

      CFL players are all part of the CFLPA with a collective agreement in place. Whether you like it or not, this excludes them from taking action against their employers in court.

      Please educate yourself on case law and precedents before attempting to comment further.

  8. How can he prove he didn’t get these injuries from playing in High School or College. Also you have a union. Use it.

  9. I am not interested in any of the legalities……this guy was a baller no doubt…..I hope it works out for him in his post football years. So many of these guys give us their all during their playing days…..

  10. Edward Leslie // March 15, 2018 at 2:24 pm //

    Cal Gary Stampeders: I’m an atheist, but I found your remarks disgusting. Saying that Arland Bruce “deserves” the concussions that he sustained because he stands up for his religious beliefs is reprehensible. I’m glad you are a Stampeders fan, and not an Eskimos fan.

    • BigRedMachine // March 15, 2018 at 2:49 pm //

      Don’t think he’s a Stampeder fan. Just a really poor attempt at mocking them…

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