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North Vancouver soccer player must pay $103K for slide tackle injury, court rules

Justice's ruling on 'dangerous and reckless conduct' in rec league soccer game upheld by B.C. Court of Appeal
The B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled a North Vancouver rec league soccer player must pay $103,000 to an opponent he injured with a “dangerous” slide tackle. | simonkr/E+/Getty Images

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling ordering a North Vancouver rec league soccer player to pay more than $100,000 to an opponent he injured in a slide tackle.

The case stems from a May 2018 game at the Windsor soccer field. Jordan David Miller had possession of the ball when Karl Cox slide tackled him – a move that is allowed under FIFA and rec league rules, so long as it is not done in a “reckless” manner.

Miller dislocated his shoulder in the ensuing fall and Cox received a yellow card on the play. Miller later sued Cox in B.C. Supreme Court.

After hearing testimony from numerous players on the field and the game’s referee, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in March 2023 that Cox was liable for Miller’s injuries. Cox executed the slide tackle from behind and to the left, where Miller could not see him approaching and without any hope of reaching the ball himself, the judge found.

“The players in this league did not consent to dangerous and reckless conduct, such as that undertaken by Mr. Cox, which carries with it the risk of severe injury,” Justice Wendy A. Baker wrote, ordering Cox to pay Miller $100,000 in damages, plus $3,764 in medical costs.

Cox took the matter to the B.C. Court of Appeal which handed down its ruling on Jan. 5.

Under appeal, Cox argued the trial judge made errors in law by incorrectly understanding and applying the standard of care that players owe to each other on the field, wrongly finding him liable in negligence.

“Since slide tackles were permitted in the match, the appellant says that mere carelessness in the execution of a permissible defensive challenge could not ground civil liability. The appellant submits that the judge erred in concluding otherwise,” Appeals Court Justice James Fitch acknowledged in the ruling.

Writing the unanimous decision for the three-judge panel, Fitch characterized Cox’s submissions as “a straw-man argument, divorced from the judge’s factual findings.”

Whether or not slide tackles were allowed in the league and regardless of Cox’s intentions at the time of the tackle, the issue of liability was the same, Fitch found.

“The judge did not resolve this case on a finding of carelessness in the context of a permitted play. Rather, she found liability having concluded that the appellant’s actions were objectively ‘dangerous’ and outside both the rules of play and the conduct a player in this recreational league could reasonably expect,” Fitch wrote, rejecting the appeal. “While the referee was in charge of the match, the judge was in charge of the litigation. She was, in effect, the final referee.”

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