VANCOUVER – Former NHL player Garrett Burnett, who was left brain damaged after a bar fight, has lost his negligence lawsuit against a suburban Vancouver municipality and its police department.
The former hockey enforcer, who played briefly for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the Dallas Stars, received a traumatic brain injury when someone smashed him with a bar stool outside the Delta, B.C. nightclub.
Video of the incident showed Burnett and others being thrown out of the club on Boxing Day, 2006, when an unidentified attacker slammed a stool down on Burnett’s head.
Burnett’s B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit claimed the municipality didn’t properly warn patrons that the Cheers nightclub in the North Delta Inn was a danger.
The court action claimed police “failed to properly identify Cheers as a nuisance to the public, a trap for the unwary and to take pre-emptive steps to abate the danger it represented to potential patrons.”
Evidence presented at the trial showed that over a nine-year period, police were called to the club more than 2,400 times for everything from assaults to uttering threats and suspicious person complaints.
Burnett, who’s now 36, couldn’t remember much of the incident because of memory loss from his head injury. He told the trial earlier this year that he remembered a friend suggesting they go to Cheers and his next memory was of being in hospital.
The lawsuit claimed over-serving of alcohol was the most likely cause of the altercation and that police failed to come to grips with the problems.
Lawyers for the Delta police and the municipality argued at the trial that they shouldn’t be held responsible for any violent behaviour directed at Burnett, and even if they had clamped down on the behaviour at the club, there’s no proof that it would have prevented his injuries.
In a ruling released Wednesday, Justice Austin Cullen said that while the impact on Burnett has been devastating, he failed to prove his claim of negligence.
“In this case, the (connection) between the alleged negligence and the harm is weak,” the judge wrote.
Burnett, who’s main job while in the NHL was as an enforcer, played 39 games with Anaheim, scoring one goal, two assists and spending 184 minutes in the penalty box in the 2003-2004 season.
He signed a contract with the Dallas Stars for the 2005 season, but only played the pre-season before injuring his hand.
In 2006, he signed with the St. Jean Summum Chiefs of the LNAH, but was suspended and his injury in December prevented him from returning to hockey.