City of Edmonton seeks to hide behind waiver in Tim Hague wrongful death suit

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Defenses have been filed in reply to the Hague family’s wrongful death suit.

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 three times in the first round with an arguable fourth 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. He died in the following days.

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 licensed. In June of 2019 the Hague family named numerous parties in a wrongful death lawsuit 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.

On August 9, 2019, the City filed a Statement of Defence denying all liability.  Among the defenses raised by the City of Edmonton are allegations that they cannot be sued because of waivers they required fighters to sign prior to competition.

The City hopes to rely on a waiver, limited statutory protection, and even goes so far as to allege that as a regulator they owe no ‘duty of care‘ to combatants that they regulate.

As previously discussed, the waiver issue will play a central role in the lawsuit. I would expect the Hague family to argue that the waiver needs to be set aside as there is no legal consideration for it. A waiver is a contract and for a contract to be effective the protected side must give something of value to the party waiving their rights.  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 already being paid to do its job. It can also be argued that the City is looking to secure more immunity than the Province granted them under section 535 of the Municipal Government Act which only limits liability in circumstances where the City is acting in “good faith“.  If the waiver defense fails the claim will be, barring settlement, adjudicated on its merits.

The full defense can be found here – Hague City of Edmonton Defence

I will continue to follow this story with further updates of any meaningful developments.

Author Erik Magraken is a British Columbia litigation lawyer, combat sports law consultant, founder of the Combat Law Sports Blog, and profoundly appreciated UGer.