ICBC Law

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Don't Get in a Fistfight at your Son's Baseball Game

In case there aren’t enough reasons to avoid a fistfight at your kid’s sporting events, here’s one more; being on the wrong end of a subsequent lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court will expose you to loser pays costs consequences.

The BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, released reasons for judgement today with such a result.  In today’s case (Charland v. Cloverdale Minor Baseball Association and Wheeler) the Plaintiff’s son was playing in a Pee Wee baseball game.  The Defendant’s son was the scheduled umpire who arrived late.  He was told to go home the by Plaintiff.  He went home upset and his father came to the baseball game to discuss what happened with the Plaintiff.  After the two fathers exchanged some colourful words the Defendant “walked away 8 to 10 feet” when the Plaintiff “stood up from his chair and moved forward quickly” with “the intention to fight“.  The Defendant hit the Plaintiff in the head and then grappled for a while after that.  The Plaintiff was injured in the incident and sued for damages.

Madam Justice Watchuk dismissed the lawsuit finding it was a consensual fight.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[88]         Consent is a defence to the torts of assault and battery.  If Mr. Wheeler alleges and proves that the parties agreed to the physical contact in question, then Mr. Charland cannot complain of injuries suffered.  The onus of establishing consent is on Mr. Wheeler:

Although the fact that the plaintiff consented to the defendant’s conduct effectively negates the argument that a wrong has been committed, consent is treated as a defence which must be established by the defendant. 

Lewis n. Klar, Q.C., Tort Law, 5th ed. (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2012) at 128.

[89]         If a fight is proven to be mutual or consensual, the parties cannot complain of injuries suffered in the course of the fight:

A related matter concern consent to violent acts in other contexts, for example, in the case of “mutual fights”.  The case law supports the proposition that those who engage in fights, even though these activities may be criminal, cannot complain of injuries suffered in the course of the fight, unless the force which is used by one of the combatants is excessive or unnecessary.  The dismissal of the plaintiff’s actions in these cases may be grounded either on the basis of the defence of consent or illegality.

Lewis n. Klar, Q.C., Tort Law, 5th ed. (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2012) at 134….

[97]         The conversation then escalated.  Mr. Charland says that Mr. Wheeler’s tone suddenly changed.  I find that the reason for that sudden change in Mr. Wheeler’s tone was Mr. Charland’s telling him to “fuck off”.  After Mr. Charland escalated the conversation to a confrontation, Mr. Wheeler replied with words to the effect of “fat shit”.  There was some loud conversation between the two fathers. 

[98]         Mr. Wheeler then walked away to process Mr. Charland’s response.  He still wanted to resolve the situation and assist his son Cam.  As Mr. Wheeler walked away, Mr. Charland said, “I’ll get you later”, as he told Cst. Lee.  The words he told the court he said, “I’ll do you later”, do not equate, I find, with “I will meet you later”.  In making that statement, Mr. Charland had formed the intention to fight and had chosen to accept what he mistakenly understood to be an invitation to fight from Mr. Wheeler. 

[99]         Mr. Wheeler had walked away 8 to 10 feet to the grassy area.  He walked back part of that distance to Mr. Charland.  Mr. Charland stood up from his chair and moved forward quickly towards Mr. Wheeler.  When Mr. Wheeler saw him coming, he had a real fear of being injured or, as he put it, “run over”.  Mr. Wheeler then hit Mr. Charland once in the head.  The moments of contact between the two fathers included some mutual grabbing which Mr. Geppert described part of, Ms. Brozer referred to as a “kafuffle” and Ms. Korrins described as grappling.  In the course of that interaction, Mr. Charland slipped and fell on the grass.  Mr. Wheeler then walked away after the intervention of some of the other witnesses and observers. 

[100]     Mr. Wheeler did not kick Mr. Charland.  There is no independent evidence of a kick.  If Mr. Charland was injured in his kidney during the altercation at the park, I conclude that the injury occurred from his fall on the grass.  Similarly, Mr. Wheeler’s injury to his eye which resulted in a black eye was a result of the mutual grappling and physical interaction rather than a punch by Mr. Charland directly to Mr. Wheeler. 

[101]     I find that when Mr. Charland got up out of his chair and moved quickly towards Mr. Wheeler who was then 8 to 10 feet away on the grass Mr. Charland had an intention to fight.  Mr. Wheeler reacted by engaging in the fight after walking back toward an angry man.  Mr. Charland’s action in standing up and moving toward Mr. Wheeler, as it created fear, was an assault.  Mr. Wheeler responded with a punch which was a battery.  I conclude that the proper characterisation of the altercation between the two fathers is that it was consensual. 

The Court went on to order that the Defendant pay the Plaintiff’s costs providing an expensive lesson to the Plaintiff for this incident.

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