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North Van beer league soccer player ordered to pay $103K for 'reckless' slide tackle

The case delves into the question of what level of care players owe to one another while participating in sports in B.C.
A soccer injury caused by a North Vancouver beer league slide tackle wound up in B.C. Supreme Court. | simonkr/E+/Getty Images

A North Vancouver beer league soccer player has been ordered to pay an opposing player more than $100,000 for an injury he dealt in a slide tackle.

The incident happened in a May, 2018 game at North Vancouver’s Windsor soccer field, according to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling released this week.

The case delves into the question of what level of care players owe to one another while participating in sports in British Columbia. 

The league follows the same rule book as FIFA and slide tackles are allowed, but only if players are not “reckless” in how they execute them, the ruling from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wendy A. Baker notes.

According to the ruling, Jordan David Miller had possession of the ball and was approaching the goal when Karl Cox slide tackled him, causing Miller to fall forward and dislocate his shoulder.

The referee penalized Cox with a yellow card and gave Miller’s team a penalty shot.

Miller later sued Cox for $100,000 in damages, plus $3,764 in healthcare costs.

Miller testified that Cox tackled him from behind, taking him out at the legs, with no chance of contacting the ball itself, which wouldn’t have been permitted under FIFA’s rules.

“Mr. Miller said Mr. Cox was out of control and aggressive in his tackle. Mr. Miller says that for a recreational league, Mr. Cox’s action in tackling him was unfair and dangerous. He felt Mr. Cox was trying to hurt him,” Baker wrote in her March 9 ruling.

Several of Miller’s teammates testified that Cox’s slide tackle was initiated from behind, the ruling notes.

Referee Panayiotis Vohalis, who has reffed hundreds of games per year in recent years, gave Cox a yellow card, though Vohalis told the court that he had considered making it a red card but ultimately gave Cox the benefit of the doubt.

“He testified that the tackle was not within the rules of play. He considered Mr. Cox’s actions to be reckless. Mr. Vohalis agreed that Mr. Cox’s conduct met the definition of reckless found in the FIFA rules, namely, ‘reckless’ is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to or consequences for an opponent and must be cautioned,’” Baker wrote.

Cox testified himself that he made contact with the ball before he collided with Miller, that he approached more from the right, rather than behind, and that the “ground hurt Mr. Miller.”

Cox argued that he didn’t intend to injure Miller, and that the slide tackle was not reckless. He added that kind of contact is the sort of thing players sign up for when they are on a pitch governed by FIFA rules.

Under cross examination, Cox agreed he may have been in Miller’s blind spot when he initiated the tackle.

Baker rejected Cox’s “diametrically opposed” account of what happened, calling his testimony “self-serving and wholly unbelievable.”

“The effect of Mr. Cox’s tackle was that both of Mr. Miller’s legs were taken out from under him and, with the speed he was travelling, Mr. Miller fell face first into the ground, very hard, and was unable to put his hands out to stop him. He severely injured his right acromioclavicular joint in the fall,” she wrote. “I find that Mr. Cox’s actions were dangerous and reckless, and were outside the conduct a player would reasonably expect in this recreational league, made up of players of all different skill levels. While slide tackles were permitted, there is no question that the execution of this slide tackle was outside the accepted rules of play.”

It’s expected the damages will be paid out of the defendant’s homeowner’s insurance.

Editor's note: This story has been amended to remove the name of a league erroneously included in the original court ruling. 

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