A B.C. Supreme Court judge has reserved his decision on a bid by the Canadian Football League's nine teams to have a concussion lawsuit dismissed.
Arland Bruce, a former wide receiver who played for five CFL teams and was a three-time all-star, filed his lawsuit last July. It is the first concussion lawsuit from a former CFL player.
Justice Brian Joyce on Thursday told the parties he would reserve his ruling. He did not indicate when it might be issued. The hearing began on Tuesday.
The lawsuit alleges Mr. Bruce suffered a concussion during a game in September, 2012, when he was a member of the B.C. Lions. It says Mr. Bruce was allowed to return for a playoff game seven weeks later "despite still suffering from the effects of concussion," and that he had multiple concussive hits during the game.
Mr. Bruce says he was also cleared to play the next season for the Montreal Alouettes despite "displaying the ongoing effects of concussion to medical professionals and coaching staff."
The lawsuit says Mr. Bruce was misled about the long-term effects of concussions by the Lions, Alouettes and former commissioner Mark Cohon. The allegations in the suit have not been proved.
Stephen Shamie, the lawyer representing the CFL teams and the former commissioner, told the judge the lawsuit should be struck down because the court does not have the jurisdiction to hear it. He said CFL players are covered by a collective agreement and it stipulates grievances must go through arbitration.
But Robyn Wishart, Mr. Bruce's lawyer, argued a 1995 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on labour law left a gap that allows employees covered by a collective agreement to pursue their cases through the courts.
Ms. Wishart, outside court, said she has heard from other athletes who played in the CFL and have been affected in a manner similar to Mr. Bruce. She said the men gave up their bodies for the entertainment of others and have been left without long-term disability or workers' compensation benefits.
The minimum salary in the CFL is about $50,000. The average salary is about $96,000.
The lawsuit says Mr. Bruce suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), depression, anxiety, headaches, insomnia and delusions. He says he is also unable to concentrate.
The CFL is not directly named as a party in the lawsuit, since it is technically an unincorporated association. However, the nine teams that make up the league are listed as defendants.
Other defendants include Charles Tator, project director of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project; Krembil Neuroscience Centre, where the concussion project is based; and Leo Ezerins, executive director of the CFL Alumni Association. The lawsuit says the concussion project and the alumni association partnered with the CFL for "the purpose of promoting concussion awareness, prevention, management and research."
The lawsuit takes issue with a May, 2013, journal article by Dr. Tator, Mr. Ezerins and seven others. The lawsuit says the article claimed there was no provable connection between concussions and CTE in CFL players. The article said "further research is needed to establish the relationship between multiple concussions and the development of CTE."
Dr. Tator, Mr. Ezerins and the neuroscience centre in their responses to the lawsuit all denied any wrongdoing.
A U.S. judge in April approved a concussion settlement involving the National Football League. The agreement involved thousands of lawsuits and was expected to cost about $1-billion (U.S.). The NFL had long been accused of hiding the effects of concussions.