An application by the defendants to strike out a claim was allowed on that basis that as financial sponsors of a sports league, they owed no duty of care to ensure that adequate insurance was in place to cover injury to participants in the league.

[2012] O.J. No. 3618

2012 ONSC 3965

Ontario Superior Court of Justice

T.R. Lofchik J.

July 31, 2012

The plaintiff brought an action in respect of an accident in which he was rendered a paraplegic while playing soccer in a league operated by the Ontario Soccer Association. The plaintiff brought a claim for general damages for the cost of medical care plus interest and costs and alleged that as part of his membership contract to participate in the league, the Soccer Association and the owner and operator of the soccer field undertook to put in place a proper insurance policy to insure the plaintiff for his losses in the event that he was injured while he was a member. The plaintiff further claimed against three of the sponsors of the league alleging that they had a duty to ensure that adequate insurance was available for all participant members of the league. The plaintiff argued that the sponsors paid money to be given access to members of the league for the purposes of establishing a commercial relationship with or proximity with members as a target market for their commercial purposes. The plaintiff alleged that this created a relationship of sufficient proximity giving rise to a duty of care.

The sponsors brought an application for an order striking out the Statement of Claim and dismissing the action against them on the ground that it disclosed no reasonable cause of action. The issue to be determined on the motion was whether a company which provides products or funds to a soccer organization through a sponsorship role can have a legal duty to an individual player to inquire into the nature and terms of any insurance policy which the soccer organization may have purchased for the benefit of the soccer players, and to ensure that the amount of such insurance is adequate. Previous case law confirmed that no duty of care or liability attaches to a sponsor acting in a financial role. The motions judge held that the facts pleaded did not support a relationship between the sponsors and the plaintiff that was sufficiently close and direct to require the sponsors to be mindful of the legitimate interests of the plaintiff. The Statement of Claim merely pleaded that the sponsors paid money to have access to league members. The sponsors were in a position of a consumer purchasing a product supplied by the league and had merely bought the right to display their logo and name on the league websites and around the premises. This advertising was found to be no different than if the sponsors were to buy advertising space in a magazine or on television. Accordingly, there was no legal foundation for suggesting that a person purchasing such a right to publicize a product is legally responsible for the consequences of the activity with which it associates its name. Furthermore, the Statement of Claim failed to plead any factual basis for establishing a proximate relationship between the plaintiff and the sponsors and, therefore, there could be no cause of action in negligence by the plaintiff against the sponsors.

In the result, the Statement of Claim failed to plead a reasonable cause of action and an order was granted striking out the Statement of Claim against the sponsors.