Arland Bruce, a former wide receiver who launched the first concussion lawsuit involving the Canadian Football League, still suffers from headaches and is unable to work – but he says he's remaining optimistic and is driven by a quest to improve the safety of the game.
The case involving Mr. Bruce, who played for five CFL teams and was a three-time all-star, returned to B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The parties made submissions last June, when a lawyer for the league's nine teams applied to have the case dismissed. The case was delayed, however, after the judge suffered an illness and had to be replaced.
Mr. Bruce, speaking with reporters outside the courtroom, said he's not looking for sympathy; he's "looking for justice for all players."
"I have a son myself, so if he plays football, I want him to be aware, too, to make the game safer, and I think this is going to help make the game safer," he said. "It's going to put a lot of great minds together to come up with ideas to make the game safer so it can continue being great."
Mr. Bruce said he still gets regular headaches, but his condition has somewhat improved thanks to his doctors and medication.
"Sunlight's not as bad as it used to be for me. But I'm improving, I'm improving a lot, man. I'm remaining positive, I don't want to get down on myself. Because I was out of it for about eight months," he said, referring to a time after he stopped playing when the headaches were more severe.
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 he was allowed to return for a playoff game seven weeks later, "despite still suffering from the effects of concussion," and that he received 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 suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), depression, anxiety, headaches, insomnia and delusions. He says he is also unable to concentrate.
It alleges Mr. Bruce was misled about the long-term effects of concussions by the Lions, Alouettes and former CFL commissioner Mark Cohon. The allegations in the suit have not been proved in court.
Stephen Shamie, the lawyer representing the CFL teams and the former commissioner, argued Tuesday that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case. He said Mr. Bruce was covered by a collective agreement and any grievance must go through arbitration.
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.
Robyn Wishart, Mr. Bruce's lawyer, told the court her client never relinquished his right to sue.
Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson, who is now hearing the case, reserved his decision. He did not say when his verdict would be delivered.
Ms. Wishart is also counsel for a separate class-action lawsuit against the CFL in Ontario that she said involves more than 100 players. That lawsuit is awaiting the outcome of Mr. Bruce's case.
Mr. Bruce, when asked what goes through his mind when he sees the effects that concussions have had on other football players, said he just hopes to keep healing.
"I hope I beat the odds," he said. "That's my everyday grind. I hope I beat the odds because it's like I was in a car accident and I just happened to be in a car accident playing football. It doesn't happen to too many people, and I just happened to be one of those players that got the bad end of the stick."