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Sponsors Take Comfort – You May Be Shielded from Liability

June 26, 2013

Some comforting news for corporate sponsors of events has come out of the Ontario Court of Appeal in April, which upheld that corporate sponsors couldn’t be held responsible for actions or negligence of the organization that they sponsored. In Boudreau v. Bank of Montréal (2013 ONCA 211), a player seriously injured in a soccer match organized by the Ontario Soccer Association (the “OSA”) sued the OSA and the corporate sponsors of the event, including Bank of Montréal. Although the OSA had obtained insurance for its members, coverage was limited to $40,000. The player sued the sponsors alleging that it was “foreseeable to the corporate sponsors that a player would get hurt; and that the corporate sponsors had a legal duty to the [player] to inquire into the adequacy of insurance coverage for the players or, if they did inquire, to ensure that adequate insurance coverage was available”.

In dismissing the appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the sponsors played no organizational role in operating the soccer league or the specific match, had no control or responsibility over the facilities and played no role in overseeing or selecting insurance coverage. There was no relationship between the player and the sponsors to ground a duty of care, and no policy reason to find such a relationship exists since the player had a cause of action against those with direct involvement, namely the OSA, the facility, and other organizers.

Although promotion and sponsorship agreements typically include releases of liability, sponsors should involve legal counsel to ensure their interests are protected and they are not unknowingly assuming liability.

 

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