BC Supreme Court to grapple with jiu-jitsu lawsuit

A martial arts instructor and his student are bound for B.C. Supreme Court following claims of negligence arising from a Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament in North Vancouver.

Richmond resident Joe Peters, who weighed in at 245 pounds, claimed he suffered a torn meniscus while grappling with a 290-pound competitor during an invitational jiu jitsu competition held at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre in 2016.

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Citing the extent of his injuries – which also include damage to his femur and tibia – the 36-year-old novice martial artist filed a notice of civil claim seeking unspecified damages against Marcus Soares, the tournament organizer and Peters’ jiu-jitsu teacher.

Soares failed to ensure all grapplers weighed in on the day of the tournament and didn’t make certain Peters was matched with an opponent who was suitable based on fight records, according to Peters’ claim.

Peters also claimed his training was insufficient in that he had no experience or training in stand-up skills.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Peters knew, “or ought to have known,” the martial arts tournament carried a risk of injury, Soares stated in his response to civil claim.

“Most of the contestants in the competition were competing for the first time,” Soares stated.

Peters’ opponent had no competition experience, according to Soares. Additionally, Peters received at least 80 hours of training and two stripes on his white belt. His opponent, 41, had no stripes.

Moving up a weight class is “commonplace in martial arts competitions,” according to Soares.

“As soon as officials observed the plaintiff show signs of physical discomfort, the match was stopped and the plaintiff was immediately medically attended to,” Soares stated.

Soares unsuccessfully moved to have Peters’ claim dismissed on the grounds his student signed one waiver when he started taking jiu-jitsu classes and a second prior to the tournament.

The first waiver, which protects the jiu-jitsu academy against legal claims despite death or injury, is not applicable, ruled Justice Sharon Matthews.

There is “no evidence” Peters was contemplating the tournament when he signed up for classes, she ruled.

“It is not the training or lack of it that [Peters] asserts was negligent; it is inviting him to participate in the competition given what they knew about his training,” Matthews wrote.

Soares submitted evidence that the online tournament sign-up form included a waiver addressing the inherent dangers of the tournament while noting participants “take full responsibility,” regardless of how injuries occurred.

During discovery, Soares said he didn’t know if the waiver he submitted used the same language as the online sign-up form.

Matthews dismissed Soares’ application.

Peters claimed his injuries left him with permanent physical disabilities impacting his quality of life, earning ability and housekeeping capacity.

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