The recent trial decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in More v. Bauer Nike Hockey Inc. dismissed a product liability claim involving safety equipment used in Canada’s favourite sport – ice hockey.

Darren More, a 17 year old hockey player, hit the boards on the end of the rink awkwardly. Despite using a helmet, he suffered a catastrophic head injury. The Court found that the incident – but for its severe consequences – was an everyday occurrence regularly repeated in ordinary hockey play.

At the time of the accident More was wearing a Bauer hockey helmet certified by Canadian Standards Association (“CSA”) as meeting the applicable Canadian safety standard. The standard had been developed by a volunteer CSA technical committee and approved as a National Standard of Canada by the Standards Council of Canada – the Canadian statutory body empowered to accredit the standards development process.

The plaintiff claimed:

  1. Against Bauer: the helmet was inadequate, because it should have had better impact attenuation characteristics; and
  2. Against CSA: the impact attenuation standard for hockey helmets set by the CSA was not sufficiently robust, and the CSA certification label on the helmet misled the plaintiff to believe that the helmet would fully protect from the risk of serious head injury.

At trial, the plaintiff relied on an engineering witness who criticized the Bauer helmet and the CSA standard. This criticism was ultimately rejected by the Court, which found that the helmet was state of the art, and the CSA standard – developed by a group which included some of the world’s leading experts in helmet safety – was reasonable. The Court pointed out that a manufacturer is not an insurer, nor is it to be held to a standard of perfection. Lastly, the Court found that the helmet labelling was clear that serious injury could occur despite proper use of the helmet.