There will be no day in court for Arland Bruce.
The Supreme Court of Canada announced Thursday morning it had denied an application by Bruce’s lawyers for leave to appeal two British Columbia court rulings that the former wide receiver must go to arbitration with his claim for concussion-related damages against the Canadian Football League and former CFL commissioner Mark Cohon.
Bruce’s lawyers had argued his case was an exception to legal precedents, including a 1995 Supreme Court ruling, that unionized workers must generally take injury-related claims to arbitration as set out in collective agreements between unions and employers.
The contract between the league and the CFL Players’ Association, most recently updated in 2014, caps medical coverage at 12 months and says players who are released or otherwise terminated — such as those who fail physical exams at the following training camp — have 10 days to file injury-rehabilitation claims.
It claimed that the CFL and its teams, Cohon, the CFL Alumni Association and its president, Leo Ezerins, brain-injury specialist Dr. Charles Tator and the Krembil Neuroscience Centre of Toronto knew or should have known about the long-term risk of brain injury resulting from concussive and sub-concussive blows and that Bruce was allowed to return to play in games despite continuing concussion symptoms.
Those claims have not been tested in court or arbitration.
Lawyers for the CFL and the other responding parties in the original claim argued that arbitration could provide an effective remedy for injury-related claims from players. The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in their favour in March 2016.
Bruce subsequently dropped the claim against all parties except the CFL and Cohon and sought to have the original ruling overturned, but a panel of judges from the British Columbia Court of Appeal sided with the CFL and Cohon last May.
During that proceeding, a lawyer for the CFL said Bruce would be permitted to submit a claim through arbitration if the league prevailed in the current legal process, even though his claim would be filed well outside the normal deadline for filing.
The CFL on Thursday released a prepared statement saying it was “very pleased with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision. We hope that this decision brings finality to any proceedings in the courts with respect to concussion litigation against the CFL.”
A class-action claim for concussion-related damages involving more than 200 former CFL players was filed in Ontario in 2015. That case has remained on hold pending resolution of the jurisdictional issues involved with Bruce’s claim, so Thursday’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling will almost certainly affect it, too.
More to come.