Two months after Arland Bruce III launched the first concussion lawsuit against the CFL, the league has responded in court. TSN's Rick Westhead reported Friday that the CFL, commissioner Mark Cohon and neurologist Dr. Charles Tator have filed for dismissal of the suit:
In court documents obtained by TSN, Tator has asked that Bruce be responsible for the doctor's legal costs. Tator also asked the court to move the case to Ontario if it isn't dismissed.
The CFL also filed its response to Arland's claim.
In what Bruce's lawyer described as an expected development, the league has asked that the case be dismissed and sent to arbitration under terms of the CFL's collective bargaining agreement.
The CFL's tactic is the same one that the NFL employed during its own concussion litigation. Both leagues argued that individual teams are responsible for the health and safety of players. The NFL lost its argument and the case went to trial.
Arland's lawyer Robyn Wishart said it would be months before a court rules on the motions to dismiss or move the case to Ontario.
It's going to be interesting to see what happens before that court ruling, as several other former players have said they intend to sue the league over concussions, including Eric Allen, Phil Colwell and Terry Metcalf. Wishart told Westhead that several players have been in contact with her, so it's quite possible further lawsuits could be filed before any ruling is made on the motions in the Bruce lawsuit. Terry Ott, who broke the news of the Bruce lawsuit and has been thoroughly covering the planned suits against the league at The Concussion Blog, told 55-Yard Line Friday Bruce's case is just the start.
"If the number of former players I have talked with are any indication, the Bruce suit is only the tiny tip of the legal iceberg," Ott said. "There are many more to come."
For now, though, only the Bruce case is being argued about in court, and there are some notable elements to both it and to the league's attempt to dismiss it. As discussed above, Westhead reports that the CFL is arguing individual teams are responsible for players' health and safety. That didn't work for the NFL, but the NFL case doesn't necessarily indicate what will happen in Canada given the differences in legal systems. However, Wishart appears to have anticipated this strategy. In fact, the statement of claim in the Bruce case includes all the CFL's member teams (Capital Gridiron is the group that runs the Ottawa Redblacks) as defendants and not the league itself (although Cohon is personally named, as well as Tator and CFL Alumni Association president Leo Ezerins).
There are bound to be arguments about who exactly should be included in this suit, but claiming that the teams are responsible for health and safety, rather than the league, wouldn't necessarily seem like enough to dismiss the case, especially with the teams already listed as defendants. It's taken the CFL a while to officially respond to these extremely serious claims by Bruce. Now that they have, things are going to get even more interesting.
(Note: this post initially commented on the CFL's filing seemingly being after the 21-day period in which a response was required by Bruce's claim. However, that period is only for an official response, not motions to dismiss, and the league apparently did file that official response on time; no one reported it, though. It's also apparently not unusual for responses to be filed after the standard deadline.)