Today MMA reporter Mike Russell tweeted that the family of Tim Hague has hired a lawyer and are pursuing a wrongful death prosecution against the City of Edmonton.
Hague died following a boxing bout in Edmonton in June 2017. Viewer discretion is advised.
Questions have swirled about whether the bout should have been approved, whether it should have been stopped sooner and, most importantly, whether the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission ignored their own policy when licencing Tim given his history of recent brain trauma losses.
An independent review commissioned by the City is expected to be published in the upcoming days scrutinizing the regulation of the Bout. In anticipation of the report’s findings Edmonton has placed a moratorium on all professional combative sports for a full year. It is unknown what level of medical care Hague received immediately after the bout. The report will likely shed light on this as well as other areas Hague’s lawyers will explore in attempting to establish negligence.
So what legal factors are in play?
Alberta allows claims for wrongful death. The Province’s Fatal Accidents Act allows certain family members to sue when a loved one is killed through the wrongful actions of another. Specifically spouses, parents, children and siblings have the right to sue. The legislation gives a lump sum for bereavement. If negligence is proven a spouse is entitled to $82,000. Parents received $82,000 and a child is entitled to $49,000.
The legislation also allows special damages to be claimed for items such as funeral expenses and counselling fees.
Pecuniary damages can also be claimed by family members that depended on Hague’s income or services. These are established by determining the income and value of services the deceased would have earned/provided and determining the realistic portion of that income and services that dependant family members would have used.
Lastly, and most importantly, Alberta courts have held that punitive damages are not out of the question in wrongful death lawsuits. In 2014 the Province’s Court of Appeal confirmed this is the case.
The family would be entitled to punitive damages, meant to punish a Defendant, if it can be proven that the City’s actions were so egregious that a civil fine is warranted.
Despite the troublesome facts surrounding the case a lawsuit would not be without challenge. Alberta’s Municipal Government Act, which implies Cities can regulate combative sports, grants immunity for actions in good faith with section 535 reading as follows:
A commission and its members, officers, employees and any
volunteers and officials performing duties under the direction of
any of them are not liable for anything said or done or omitted to
be done in good faith in the performance or intended performance
of their functions, duties or powers under this Act or any other
Basically this section would require a plaintiff to prove something akin to gross negligence to succeed.
Also important is a waiver of rights Edmonton requires fighter’s to sign before competing. The ECSC uses the following language in their waiver which presumably Hague signed:
The language appears to prevent a lawsuit however Hague can advance an argument that no legal consideration truly exists for this waiver. In short the City suggests that by regulating a fight they are providing a fighter something of value. The flaw in this reasoning is the commission is being already paid to do their job. If a court accepts this reasoning the waiver may be thrown out as a contract without actual consideration is not binding.
Given the documented concerns around the licensing of the bout an ideal outcome would be the City coming to terms with Hague’s family without the need for litigation. Time will tell if this is the path they choose to take.