Former NHL linesman Don Henderson is suing Calgary Flames forward Dennis Wideman for $10.25MM, reports CTV’s Chris Epp. The suit stems from the on-ice incident on January 27, 2016 where Wideman hit Henderson as Wideman was skating to the bench. The NHL initially suspended Wideman for 20 games before a neutral arbitrator reduced it to 10. Henderson also added the Calgary Flames as a defendant alleging that the team is vicariously liable for Wideman’s conduct.
Henderson’s suit—filed in Calgary, Alberta—alleges that as a result of Wideman’s hit, Henderson suffered numerous injuries including a concussion, neck injury, knee injury, and pain, numbness, and tingling in his right arm. The suit also alleges that those injuries directly impacted Henderson’s ability to continue to referee. Henderson seeks $10MM for lost income and future earnings, $200K for general damages, and $50K for special damages. It is unclear whether this is in Canadian or American funds.
Civil lawsuits stemming from professional sporting events are tricky to analyze. In contrast with normal civil suits alleging assault, battery, or negligence, professional sports participants face the added burden of disproving consent and assumption of risk. The basic premise is that a professional sports participant understands the risk of his or her position and consents to physical contact. It is why NHL players cannot sue each other for hits occurring during an NHL game.
That is not to say, however, that participants are prohibited from filing civil suits. Depending on the court, a party can successfully claim that the injury occurred was so out of the realm of what was expected that consent and assumption of risk do not apply. It is a tougher burden to prove, but it is not impossible.
According to Rick Westhead, Wideman has 30 days to file a statement of defense. So far both Wideman’s camp and the Calgary Flames have declined to comment.