On June 18th former UFC heavyweight Tim Hague passed away from injuries he sustained in a boxing match two nights prior. The incident happened in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Combat sports in that city is regulated by the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission (ECSC).
Immediately after his death, questions about the ECSC’s licensing of Hague to compete on the night he was fatally injured were raised. Those questions were often coupled with earlier complaints about the ECSC and Pat Reid – who was Director during Hague’s death.
Veteran MMA investigative journalist Mike Russell was one of (if not the) first individuals to begin discussing whether or not the ECSC and Reid had been negligent in permitting Hague to fight. Recently, CTV News Edmonton (on of Canada’s largest local news stations) also began openly questioning the practices of the ECSC.
CTV News Edmonton released a three part video investigation into the ECSC. In that series the news outlet questioned whether Hague should have been medically suspended when he fought in June (based on the fighter suffering three previous knockouts within a nine month spell). The series also questioned Reid’s fitness to run the ECSC and summarized complaints former ECSC members had made against him.
Their investigation also revealed that the City of Edmonton was having Hague’s death looked into by a third party to evaluate what happened within the ECSC’s licensing process. The release of that report has been delayed for months, but it is thought it may be released in the coming days.
Even though that report has not been released, the City of Edmonton last week decided to implement a one year moratorium on combat sports events in the city. This lead to the cancellation of a Unified MMA show and a number of boxing events (per Global News).
Despite the moratorium, a KO Boxing promotions event was allowed to take place at Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre on December 8th. In the main event Adam Braidwood defeated Misael Sanchez via TKO. It was the same arena, promotion, and opponent as were involved in Hauge’s death.
Hague’s family have previously stated that they were waiting for the release of the report before deciding whether they would pursue any legal action in connection with Hague’s death.
Due to the ongoing delays, that no longer appears to be the case. On December 9th Mike Russell revealed that Hague’s family had secured the services of Assiff Law, an Alberta-based personal injury firm, to represent them against the City of Edmonton.
Just confirmed Edmonton-based personal injury firm @AssiffLaw Office sent the @CityofEdmonton a letter Friday afternoon informing council/city administration that the firm has been retained by Tim Hague's family to represent their late husband, brother, son, and father's estate.— Mike Russell (@MIKERUSSELLMMA) December 9, 2017
According to Magraken, the province of Alberta does allow wrongful death lawsuits in the case of someone being killed by the actions of another. The legislation describes lump sums for bereavement totaling $82,000 CAD for spouses and parents and $49,000 CAD for children, if negligence is proven.
Magraken further states that family members can also seek damages related to the costs of funeral services and loss of income the deceased would have earned. Most importantly, family members are also able to seek punitive damages; if it can be proven that – in the case of Hague – the City of Edmonton’s actions, “were so egregious that a civil fine is warranted.”
However, it appears there would be some stiff challenges ahead of the Hague family, if they did move forward with a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Edmonton. In support of this, Magraken points out a clause in the Alberta Municipal Government Act, which reads:
A commission and its members, officers, employees and any volunteers and officials performing duties under the direction of any of them are not liable for anything said or done or omitted to be done in good faith in the performance or intended performance of their functions, duties or powers under this Act or any other enactment.
According to Magraken, this means that a plantiff would need to, “prove something akin to gross negligence” in order to be successful with their suit.
Magraken also believes that the release and waiver Hague would have signed before competing in Edmonton might hinder the family’s ability to receive damages. The ECSC form includes language that seems to indicate that the signatory, and their dependents, waive the right to sue the ECSC.
All that being said, there may be a route for the Hague family to have this waiver thrown out:
The language appears to prevent a lawsuit however Hague can advance an argument that no legal consideration truly exists for this waiver. In short the City suggests that by regulating a fight they are providing a fighter something of value. The flaw in this reasoning is the commission is being already paid to do their job. If a court accepts this reasoning the waiver may be thrown out as a contract without actual consideration is not binding. - Erik MaGraken, CombatSportsLaw.com
At this time of writing, it is not believed that the Hague family have served the City of Edmonton with a lawsuit in connection to the death of Tim Hague. Bloody Elbow will continue to track this story and will report if legal action is taken.