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Many people who play sports recreationally assume that they cannot claim compensation for injuries sustained during the sport activity. That is because of a doctrine called volenti non fit injuria, which means that if someone willingly takes risks of harm, they should not be able to sue someone for that harm. This principle will apply for many sports related injuries, but not all.

In this recent case of Dhahan Law’s, an amateur Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor was injured in a fight as a result of fighting someone in a heavier weight class than him and that was approximately 50 lbs heavier than him. The competition rules provided that participants would be notified if they were being asked to fight someone in a heavier weight class. The participant claims he was not informed of his opponent’s weight or that he was in a heavier weight class. Arguably, the doctrine of volenti non fit injuria does not apply here as this was not a risk the participant willing took on.

The court is still to determine the applicability of volenti non fit injuria to this case, but in a recent decision, found that waivers signed by the participant did not bar him from making a claim for a variety of reasons. Accordingly, when considering whether one has an injury claim, it need not be assumed that a waiver will always bar a claim. Rather, it depends on the circumstances of the waiver and the particular wording of the waiver.

Hosts of competitions should seek legal advice with respect to the drafting of a waiver they seek to rely on. They should also have insurance.

If you have been injured in a sports-related incident and are uncertain as to whether you can make a claim, call Dhahan Law for a complimentary consultation.

For the decision, see: https://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/19/01/2019BCSC0189cor1.htm.

For reporting on this case, see: What’s a sports waiver worth in court?

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