The Sound Martial Arts and its partners are denying allegations made in a lawsuit that some of the gym’s students were involved in an alleged 2017 assault against a Vancouver businessman, and the former Chieftain Hotel – the site of the alleged assault – is also denying claims made against it related to the incident.
Nathan Tonelli, a Vancouver businessman, filed a lawsuit on June 27 of this year related to an incident alleged to have happened outside what was then the Chieftain Hotel in August 2017.
Tonelli’s lawsuit names Taran Bir and Indroop Virk, and The Sound Martial Arts, along with owners and instructors Wayne Paul Lefebvre, Johnny Joseph Thomaidis, Kasey Smith, Vance Shaw and Mike Nasu.
It also names Bo & Ke Investments, doing business as the Chieftain Hotel and Pub at the time, and two of its staff members, Taylor Bruneski and Megan Kass.
The Sound and its partners responded to the lawsuit by filing a statement of defence in the Vancouver courts on Oct. 22. In it, they deny Tonelli’s allegations regarding the alleged assault and ask that the claims against them be dismissed.
Bo & Ke, the former Chieftain Hotel and Pub, and its staff filed a statement of defence Aug. 30 also denying Tonelli’s claims.
None of the allegations in the statements of claim or defence have been tried or proven in court.
In his notice of civil claim, Tonelli states that Bir, Virk, as well as an unidentified person referred to in the document as John Doe, who the claim states were paying members of the Sound Martial Arts Club, were outside the Chieftain Hotel and Pub.
According to the claim, the three were intoxicated on the evening of the incident.
“They harassed and intimidated and tried to pick fights with passersby and others exiting the Chieftain,” reads the document.
“The plaintiff, Nathan Tonelli, who was a stranger to Taran Bir, Indroop Virk and John Doe, was exiting the premises when without provocation or warning he was sucker-punched by Taran Bir, causing him to fall to the ground, where he was beaten unconscious by Taran Bir.”
Tonelli claims that he suffered a “severe traumatic brain injury” and “multiple right-sided skull base fractures,” among other things, as a result.
“As a result of the said injuries, the plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer pain and will have a permanent disability causing a loss of the enjoyment of the amenities of life,” the claim reads.
The claim says that Tonelli is claiming “aggravated and punitive damages against Taran Bir for the wanton, unprovoked and vicious attack upon him.”
With respect to Bir, the claim says his alleged negligence and breach of statutory duty resulted from, among other things, consuming alcohol “when he knew or ought to have known that this would result in violent urges that he would be unable to control.”
It also alleged he sucker-punched Tonelli when he “knew or ought to have known that by doing so he could cause serious injury or death.”
The claim alleges that Virk and Doe were also negligent and breached their statutory duty because they started picking fights with patrons outside the Chieftain when they knew Bir would likely lose control and “commit acts of violence.”
The statement of claim also alleges The Sound and its partners were negligent by giving Bir, Virk and Doe MMA training when the gym’s partners should have known the three would provoke fights with untrained people.
The claim alleges the gym also failed to instruct the three to not use their martial arts skills outside of the ring, unless they are at imminent risk of serious harm or death.
Tonelli also claims the former Chieftain and its staff were negligent and breached their statutory duty by over-serving alcohol to Bir, Virk and Doe, while failing to ensure the entrance to the Chieftain was safe.
The Sound Martial Arts and its partners, as well as the Chieftain and its staff, have denied all the allegations related to the incident.
“The defendants deny that the events described therein occur as alleged, or at all,” reads The Sound’s statement of defence, referring to the alleged attack.
The gym and its partners say that if Tonelli sustained any injuries — which it denied — it would be the fault of the plaintiff.
Some of these faults would include “confronting, aggravating and/or provoking the individual or individuals who assaulted him” and “failing to take reasonable care of himself in the circumstances,” the gym’s statement says.
The Sound and its partners also say the gym provided training and education on ethical responsibilities with respect to martial arts.
A statement of defence filed on Aug. 30 by Bo & Ke Investments, Bruneski and Kass also denies the attack occurred as alleged or at all.
“These defendants say that their officers, servants, employees and agents were, at all material times, appropriately trained, supervised and qualified and that they had implemented adequate and appropriate procedures for ensuring compliance with any applicable statutory and common law duties of care,” the document reads.
“These defendants further say that if the attack occurred, as alleged or at all, then the plaintiff instigated and was a willing participant in this altercation and knowingly and wilfully accepted the risk of injury as a result, and is therefore responsible for his own injuries, if any.”
Bir and Virk have not filed any statements of defence as of press deadline.
Court records show that Bir previously appeared in court for a criminal charge related to the incident. The case was given an indefinite stay of proceedings in July 2018.
“There was a trial on a charge of aggravated assault in July 2018,” wrote Crown prosecutor Andrew Cochrane in an email to The Chief.
“Nathan Tonelli was the victim and there was no issue concerning the extent of his injury. His injury was serious and life-altering. After witnesses were called, my opinion, based on the evidence presented, was there was not a substantial likelihood that a case of aggravated assault could be established against the accused to the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”