British Columbia

Lawsuit against jiu-jitsu instructor moves forward despite signed waivers

A local amateur jiu-jitsu athlete is suing his former instructor for injuries allegedly sustained during competition, despite signing two separate forms waiving liability.

Athlete sues over injuries allegedly sustained in competition, claims he was in wrong weight class

A jiu-jitsu athlete claims he suffered leg injuries including a torn meniscus that required knee surgery while competing at a North Vancouver invitational. (Shutterstock / MAD.vertise)

A local amateur jiu-jitsu athlete is suing his former instructor for injuries allegedly sustained during competition, despite signing two separate forms waiving liability.

In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Richmond resident Joe Peters says he signed up to compete in his coach's namesake tournament, the Marcus Soares Invitational in North Vancouver, but wasn't told he'd be fighting competitors outside his weight class.

Peters, who was 36 at the time, says he was 246 pounds and scheduled to take on an opponent weighing 290 pounds. 

Peters also alleges in court documents he was forced to engage in standup fighting, despite never receiving training in that particular combat discipline during his nine months working at Soares' gym.

In the court filing, Peters claims he suffered leg injuries including a torn meniscus that required knee surgery. 

In a response to the civil claim, Marcus Soares, who has Brazilian jiu-jitsu training locations in downtown Vancouver and Langley, claims Peters was not injured during the event and had received at least 80 hours of training prior to it.

Soares claims Peters failed to request additional standup fighting instruction, despite knowing it would be a requirement in the tournament. He also claims that moving up weight classes in the event was optional. 

Waiver did not extend to competition: judge

The lawyers for Soares tried to have the civil case thrown out, pointing out that Peters had signed waivers.

But a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the waiver signed by Peters before his training did not extend to competition, and that the facts Soares provided to support the competition waiver were not sufficient to throw out the case. 

Erik Magraken, a combat sports regulatory lawyer in Victoria, says students and instructors of combat sports can learn from this case. 

"From a consumer perspective, it's always important to pay attention to documents that you're signing. A lot of people sign waivers without even knowing that they're giving up their right to sue," said Magraken. 

"From the school's perspective, the lesson is pretty clear, which is, you want to make sure students understand what they're signing, and the waivers are broad and they cover all the activities the student might be exposed to."

Peters is seeking general damages for pain and suffering, lost wages and future capacity to earn wages because of the knee surgery.

His lawyer would not specify an amount. Soares' lawyers declined to comment for the story.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. 

Listen to an interview with plaintiff lawyer Jordana Dhahan here:

An amateur jiu jitsu athlete claims his trainer didn't properly prepare him to compete in a tournament. A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that a civil claim on this matter can go forward despite the athlete having signed two separate waivers. The man's lawyer spoke to On The Coast. 7:13