November 24, 2017 by David Gambrill, Editor-in-Chief
When William Carrier of the Vegas Golden Knights dropped the gloves to fight Michael Liambus of the Anaheim Ducks last Wednesday, hockeyfights.com posted footage of the battle, asked viewers to rate the fight, and logged the event as the 70th fight of this young NHL hockey season.
The Carrier-Liambus tilt was the 13th fight in the NHL last week alone.
Hockey fights are so ubiquitous that fans routinely describe them as “part of the game.” But when does the garden variety fighting in our national sport cross the line and become an assault, and therefore the subject of an insurance claim for compensation?
Lawyers Patrick Brennan and Shannon Mulholland of Shillingtons LLP remind insurance professionals about the rules of the game when it comes to underwriting policies and adjusting insurance claims related to hockey fights in Canada.
“The courts have made clear that bodily contact is an inherent risk that is assumed by participants in the game of hockey,” Brennan and Mulholland told Canadian Underwriter, but “conduct that could be described as malicious, intentionally injurious or a deliberate unilateral attack will likely attract liability.”
Traditionally, the courts have looked at several factors to determine the difference between the expectations of hockey combatants, and the kind of fight that would attract a lawsuit. For example, was there a previous incident between the two players before the fight? Would the actions of the aggressor at the time lead a person to conclude there was an intention to cause injury? What degree of force was necessary to cause the injury?
In addition, courts would look at the nature of the league and the game. Was it a non-contact game, or was contact forbidden in the rules? Was it a recreational or pick-up league, or a more competitive, organized league? What were the expectations of the participants going into the game?
Brennan and Mulholland encourage clients to review policies with their brokers to see if insurance covers injuries arising from hockey fights. “Typically, if a player steps outside the bounds of the game and is sued for causing injury to another player, [the aggressor’s] homeowner’s insurance policy responds,” they say. “If the conduct of the [aggressor] was so egregious so as to attract criminal liability, the [aggressor] may find insurance coverage denied.”
Insurance underwriters and adjusters should be aware of efforts by hockey associations, officials, and property (rink) owners to mitigate the risk of hockey violence. Among the efforts: