The Bertuzzi / Moore case is one of the most notorious personal injury cases in British Columbia (although the lawsuit was actually filed in Ontario). Today, a settlement was reached in this case. Due to a non-disclosure clause, the details of this settlement have not been made public.
By way of background, Steve Moore, a former player for the Colorado Avalanche of the National Hockey League (NHL), was injured when he was struck from behind by Todd Bertuzzi during the third period of a game against the Vancouver Canucks on March 8, 2004. Moore suffered various injuries including a concussion, three fractured vertebrae, and facial lacerations.
Supposedly, Moore was asking for an award of $68,000,000.00. Moore would have faced several challenges in his lawsuit had his case gone to court. Firstly, he would have been required to prove what his potential wages might have been. There would have been considerable debate about this, as Moore’s potential was most likely that of a “journeyman” at the professional hockey level. At the time of this incident Moore was already in his mid-20s and had amassed only 12 points in 69 NHL games.
Next, there would have been some debate as to who caused the injury to Moore and whether Moore assumed a risk inherent in the game of hockey. Following Bertuzzi’s blow to Moore he was caught underneath a scrum of several players. It is possible the injury to Moore occurred during the ensuing scrum and not from the blow by Bertuzzi. Hockey is also a full contact sport, which condones fighting.
In my opinion, Bertuzzi was unlikely to succeed with either of these arguments. The video footage of the incident in question shows what seems to be an unconscious Moore striking the ice with his head after being struck from behind by Bertuzzi. While hockey condones fighting – although perhaps not for much longer – a fight consists of two players squaring off and voluntarily consenting to a fight. Bertuzzi clearly “sucker-punched” Moore.
The challenges faced by Moore would have been those faced by most plaintiffs and their lawyers during more typical personal injury cases such as those arising from motor vehicles and ICBC issues. We always need to remember that the burden of proof is on the party making the argument. While Moore was likely to succeed against Bertuzzi, had this case gone to court, his award was very much up in the air. It is likely this case settled for far less than the $68,000,000.00 that Moore was seeking.