Arland Bruce, ex-CFL player, to appeal dismissal of concussion lawsuit
Claimed league downplayed effects of repetitive head trauma
Arland Bruce's concussion lawsuit against the CFL is "far, far, far from over," the former receiver's lawyer said Tuesday.
Robyn Wishart said an appeal is in the works after B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Hinkson dismissed the suit against the league, former commissioner Mark Cohon, neuroscientist Dr. Charles Tator, the Canadian Football League Alumni Association and every team in the league. Bruce claimed the defendants downplayed the effects of repetitive head trauma and misrepresented player safety issues about concussions.
In a written ruling Friday, Hinkson said the issues raised in the lawsuit are part of a collective bargaining agreement between the league and the CFL Players' Association and must be resolved through the grievance and arbitration process, not the courts.
"The appeal is going to be based on the fact that the CFL Players' Association is not the exclusive bargaining agent for the players," Wishart said.
The union had no comment Tuesday.
According to the suit, Bruce was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion while playing for the Lions in September 2012. He reported fogginess, headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, memory loss, confusion, dizziness, anxiety and personality changes, according to the lawsuit.
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 CFL should have intervened and prevented Bruce from returning to the field, the lawsuit claimed.
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 league said it was "very pleased" with the ruling.
"We hope that this decision brings finality to any proceedings in the courts with respect to concussion litigation against the CFL," the league said in a statement.
Class action lawsuit
The CFL is also facing a $200-million class action lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court in May by former players Korey Banks and the league Eric (The Flea) Allen. Wishart is representing the roughly 200 participants.
Wishart said the B.C. court's decision does not "bind the hands of the Ontario court."
"The judgement of the B.C. Supreme Court is of value but it isn't certainly the end of that," she said.
Players continue to join the suit, she said.
"Every day I get a phone call from a player and that's no exaggeration," she said. "What happens is as one player joins their friends join them."
The suit alleges the league, Cohon, a Toronto doctor and clinic withheld information about how repeated concussions can lead to long-term cognitive disorders. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Wishart said the acknowledgment Monday by the NFL's top health and safety officer that a link exists between football-related head injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a huge development. Jeff Miller, the league's senior vice-president for health and safety, made the revelation during a discussion with the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce, the first time a senior league official has conceded football's connection to the brain disease.
"I don't want to be so glib as to say I don't care about the lawsuit," she said. "Of course, I care about the lawsuit but what the lawsuit has done has brought 200 men back together and I can tell them that they're not alone."