Tim Hague, a former UFC fighter, died from brain trauma after a boxing bout on June 16, 2017 in Edmonton Alberta. He was clearly outmatched being knocked down 3 times in the first round with an arguable 4th knockdown that the referee deemed a slip.
In the second round Hague was dropped for a fourth official time and allowed to continue. Shortly thereafter the final knockout blow landed.
Hague had a history of recent brain trauma prior to the bout. He suffered a series of recent combative sports losses by KO and TKO.
Serious questions arose regarding the regulation of this bout and Hauge’s suitability to be licenced. Today Hague’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta.
The suit names numerous parties including the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission (the “ECSC”), Pat Reid who was the Executive Director of the ECSC at the time, David Aitken who allegedly was responsible for Reid’s hiring, Len Koivisto who was the referee for the bout along with two ringside physicians and the promoter of the event.
The suit alleges that some of the defendants were negligent or grossly negligent and in the case of Reid goes so far as to allege he was criminally negligent showing “a wanton or reckless disregard for the life and safety of Tim Hague“.
Alberta law requires pleadings to specifically quantify sought damages. The lawsuit seeks a total of $5,268,000.
The most damaging allegations are set out in paragraphs 17-20 of the Statement of Claim which suggest a pattern of ignoring health and safety rules leading to a situation where Hague should not have been allowed in the ring on the night in question. These paragraphs allege that Defendants allowed Hague “to participate in combative sports events when they knew or ought to have known that he should have been suspended; failing to ensure that Time Hague had received the appropriate medical clearance, prior to his participation in combative sports events; and, Failing to levy the appropriate suspension to Tim Hague as per the Policies“.
The full Statement of Claim can be found here (courtesy of Canadian combat sports reporter Mike Russell) Tim Hague Wrongful Death Statement of Claim
Perhaps the most interesting thing revealed in the lawsuit is the suggestion that Tim Hague already had developed CTE by the time of his fatal bout. The Statement of Claim notes that “following an autopsy…it was determined that Tim Hague had developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy”. A fundamentally important regulatory question is what, if anything, are commissions doing to ensure they are not licencing someone who already has developed CTE from too much career brain trauma. This is easier said than done as CTE cannot be conclusively be diagnosed except with autopsy. That said, it should not excuse commissions from updating their standards to screen athletes for the reality of this disease in a meaningful way.
On another note, having CTE at the time of the bout can significantly reduce sought damages if the claim succeeds. The reason being is many of the sought damages relate directly to future earnings of Hague which likely far more modest for a person suffering with a chronic and progressive brain disease.
The allegations have not been proven in court. The Defendants have yet to reply to the lawsuit.
For more background on this story you can read this 2017 article setting out some of the relevant policies in play.