Judge rules for CFL in Arland Bruce III concussion lawsuit, but appeal's planned

Judge rules for CFL in Arland Bruce III concussion lawsuit, but appeal's planned

B.C. Supreme Court judge Christopher Hinkson's ruling Friday that Arland Bruce III's concussion lawsuit against the CFL should be sent to arbitration is a victory for the league, but it's not the end of the story. Bruce's lawyer, Robyn Wishart, told Gord Holder of The Ottawa Citizen Friday that she plans to appeal the decision:

The lawyer representing Bruce in his bid to have the claim heard in court, arguing that Canadian common law allows an individual legal action through the courts and that professional sports operate under different parameters than the standard collective bargaining agreement, said an appeal of Hinkson’s decision would be filed with the B.C. Court of Appeal within 30 days.

“We knew this wasn’t going to stay at the Supreme Court level,” Robyn Wishart said in a telephone interview. “It was always something that was going to end up at the Court of Appeal whether the players won or lost."

“But I’m not at all dampened by the reasons (in the decision). I feel we can take this further legitimately.”

Wishart went on to tell Holder she thinks there's room to disagree with Hinkson's decision that the CFLPA is the exclusive bargaining agent for CFL players (which would make Bruce's claims subject to the CBA and to the grievance procedures within, as Hinkson ruled; it is notable that even the CBA doesn't relieve clubs from long-term injury costs if they are caused by negligence, which is what Bruce is alleging).

“It’s a complicated issue, but we feel they are not the exclusive bargaining agent for the CFL players,” Wishart said. “They themselves bargain their own contracts or an agent would bargain for them.”

Hinkson's ruling that the Bruce case should be sent to arbitration is certainly one the CFL will appreciate, as indicated in their statement on that front Friday:

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

This is likely far from the end for concussion litigation against the league, though. First, in the Bruce case, Wishart can appeal to the B.C. Court of Appeal, and either side could try and appeal any Court of Appeal ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. Wishart also represents the claimants in the separate class-action lawsuit against the CFL over concussions, which now includes seven publicly identified plaintiffs. That case has been filed in Ontario, and while it's possible it could also see a ruling that this should be taken to arbitration rather than the courts, the ruling in B.C. won't necessarily mean that a similar outcome happens in that case. We'll see where things go from here, but while Friday's ruling is a positive one for the CFL, there's likely more to come in the saga of concussion lawsuits against the league.