Soccer Coach Sued For Allegations of Injury After Not Following Concussion Protocols
Interesting reasons for judgement were recently published by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia allowing a lawsuit to continue against a youth soccer coach based on allegations that she made a concussion worse by allowing an athlete to continue playing contrary to concussion protocols.
In the recent case (Rutt v. Meade) the Plaintiff was injured in a vehicle collision and sued for damages. The alleged injuries included a concussion.
A few weeks after the crash the Plaintiff played in a national soccer tournament for her club.
The Defendants in the car crash lawsuit brought a third party action against the soccer club and the coach arguing it was negligent to allow the Plaintiff to play soccer while she was still dealing with concussive injuries from the crash and that participation in sport was contrary to the established concussion protocols and this added to her prolonged injury. The coach and club asked to be let out of the lawsuit arguing they could not be responsible for the concussion which was caused by the car crash.
In denying the application and allowing the third party claim to continue the Court noted that depending on how the facts play out a coach could be found legally liable in such circumstances. In allowing the claim to proceed Justice Gail L. Gatchalian provided the following reasons:
 The plaintiff, Emily Dawn Rutt, was injured when the car she was in collided with a truck driven by Mr. Meade. She was fifteen years old at the time. Her litigation guardian filed a claim on her behalf against Mr. Meade and Synergy, claiming damages for injuries, including concussion symptoms.
 Approximately three weeks after the accident, Ms. Rutt played in a national soccer tournament for her club, Valley United. Ms. Ramirez was her coach.
 Mr. Meade and Synergy allege that Ms. Ramirez and Valley United were negligent in pressuring or allowing Ms. Rutt to play in the soccer tournament when she was still experiencing concussion symptoms from the accident. Mr. Meade and Synergy allege that Ms. Rutt’s participation in the soccer tournament impeded her recovery and aggravated her concussion symptoms.
 With respect to the concussion symptoms that Ms. Rutt continued to suffer after the soccer tournament, Mr. Meade and Synergy say that Ms. Ramirez and Valley United are “concurrent tortfeasors” who would have been liable, had they been sued, for the “same damage” suffered by Ms. Rutt…
 Therefore, if the ongoing concussion symptoms of Ms. Rutt allegedly caused by Ms. Ramirez and Valley United, on the one hand, and Mr. Meade and Synergy, on the other hand, are indivisible, in that it is impossible to determine which incident caused which damage, the material contribution test applies. If Mr. Meade and Synergy are found to have materially contributed to the damage, they may be held liable to Ms. Rutt for all of the damage. Mr. Meade and Synergy would then have a right to seek contribution and indemnity from Ms. Ramirez and Valley United.
 Whether the concussion symptoms allegedly caused by the accident and those allegedly caused by Ms. Rutt’s participation in the soccer tournament are divisible or indivisible is a question of fact: see Sale v. O’Grady’s, supra at para.33.
 In this case, Mr. Meade and Synergy allege that Ms. Ramirez and Valley United knew about the accident and Ms. Rutt’s concussion symptoms, failed to adhere to Soccer Nova Scotia and Soccer Canada concussion protocols, failed to obtain medical clearance for Ms. Rutt to return to play, and pressured or allowed Ms. Rutt to play three weeks after the accident while she was still recovering, thereby impeding her medical recovery and causing an exacerbation of her concussion symptoms.
 I am not able to determine, at this stage of the proceedings, whether the concussion symptoms suffered by Ms. Rutt after the soccer tournament are capable of division. It will be up to the trial judge to determine this. If the trial judge finds that the damage caused by the two alleged incidents can be separated, then Ms. Ramirez and Valley United are not concurrent tortfeasors and the third party claim against them will fail. If the trial judge determines that the damage is indivisible, there is a risk that Mr. Meade and Synergy will be required to fully compensate Ms. Rutt for the post-tournament concussion symptoms, including those allegedly caused by her participation in the soccer tournament.
bc injury law, concussion, Concussion Protocol, negligence, Rutt v. Meade, Safe Return to Sport, Sports Law