On Friday, Ian Hague, the brother of deceased UFC veteran Tim Hague, filed a civil suit against the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission, the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, former ECSC Executive Director Pat Reid, boxing referee Len Koivisto, ringside physicians Dr. Shelby Karpman and Dr. Shirdi Nulliah, K.O. Boxing, and others for their alleged roles in the death of Hague.
The suit, filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta, comes nearly two years to the day after Hague’s untimely death as a result of injuries sustained during his final professional boxing match. In the lawsuit, the Hague family alleges that the city’s, its commissions’, and its employees’ gross negligence “caused, or alternatively, contributed to the wrongful death of Tim Hague and caused the Plaintiffs to suffer loss and damage.”
In June of 2017, Hague competed in his fourth professional boxing bout following a decade-long, 34-fight MMA career. In an event promoted by K.O. Boxing, a Candian promotion named as a defendant in the Hague’s lawsuit, Hague drew WBU heavyweight champion Adam Braidwood, a Canadian heavyweight who had won six of his seven professional wins by knockout.
Entering the fight, many pundits speculated that Hague’s chances were slim: the former MMA fighter, who has gone 1-2 in his first two boxing bouts and losing two straight, including a knockout loss in his most recent fight, seemed ill-equipped to take on the then 7-1 former Canadian Football League defensive end-turned boxing prospect.
An additional cause for concern was Hague’s recent MMA history. In his last five professional MMA bouts, Hague lost four, all of which came by way of decisive, often early, knockout defeats. In fact, prior to the Braidwood fight, Hague’s two most recent combat sports appearances were a thirty-second head kick knockout loss in MMA and a first-round knockout loss in boxing.
Despite Hague’s recent struggles, the fight proceeded.
In the fight, Braidwood was the clear favorite, methodically hammering Hague with precise, heavy shots. Over the course of the first round, Braidwood knocked Hague down three – arguably four – times. In the second round, Braidwood stunned Hague early, forcing the Canadian to put his hands on the mat.
After being deemed fit to continue, Hague kept fighting on in the second. Finally, Braidwood stopped Hague with a brutal, thudding left hook that sent the UFC veteran to the canvas. Two days later, Hague was pronounced dead in a hospital room surrounded by his family.
The lawsuit revealed that Hague was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease believed to be caused by repeated trauma to the head. According to Erik Magraken of Combat Sports Law, Hague is the first UFC fighter to be diagnosed with the disease.
The Hague family contends that several factors in which the defendants are alleged to have played a role contributed to Hague’s death, including “Circumstances Leading Up to the Event”, “The Braidwood Fight”, “Breach of Fiduciary Duty”, and “Negligent Hiring and Retention of Pat Reid”.
The lawsuit alleges that the ESCS failed to abide by policies intended to protect the athletes on at least nine, specific occasions in which Tim Hague fought in a professional combat sports event. The plaintiffs argue that the commission allowed Hague to compete “when the knew or ought to have known that he should have been suspended.”
Hague’s family claims that the commission failed “to ensure that Tim Hague had received the appropriate medical clearance, prior to his participation in combative sports events; and, [failed] to levy the appropriate suspension to Tim Hague as per the Policies.”
In this section, the lawsuit specifically singles out Pat Reid, the former Executive Director of the ECSC. The lawsuit claims that Reid failed to forward the results of MMA events Unified MMA 25 and Unified MMA 26, both of which Hague fought and lost by knockout on.
According to investigate journalist Mike Russell, who has been covering alleged misdeeds and negligence in the ECSC for years, Reid may have ignored up to “six mandatory medical suspensions” he was required to assign to Hague, allowing Hague to fight when he otherwise would not have been able to.
The lawsuit targets Reid extensively, and Aitken, the Edmonton city employee who hired Reid. The complaint argues that “the City and Aitken were negligent, or grossly negligent, in their selection and hiring of Reid fill the position of Executive Director of the ECSC” when they “knew or ought to have known that Reid was not qualified.”
Among the allegations against Reid and the ECSC are the aforementioned instances of ignoring medical suspensions, allowing fighters to compete while medically unfit, and allowing fighters to compete while medically suspended in another jurisdiction, but also “intoxication at combative sporting events” while on the job and “allowing fighters to potentially tamper with their fighting gloves.”
The lawsuit alleges that this constitutes gross negligence, and in the case of Reid, “a wanton or reckless disregard for the life and safety of Tim Hague.”
Hague’s family contends that Hague’s death was “caused or contributed to by the negligence, or alternatively, the gross negligence of the Defendant, Koivisto.”
Koivisto, the referee overseeing Hague’s fight with Braidwood, is alleged to have failed to “exercise the various duties and responsibilities as referee” and “the standard of care required in his position”. Koivisto is also said to have failed to “stop the fight when he knew or ought to have known that Tim Hague no longer was in a position to adequately defend himself.”
The lawsuit claims, in addition, that “the Defendants [failed] to follow appropriate knockout protocols… and if such protocols were followed, the damage sustained by Tim Hague would have been lessened and his life would have been saved.”
Hague’s family is seeking $4,268,000 for a variety of alleged damages, which are outlined in the full complaint. The complaint, in its entirety, is available here (courtesy of Russell).
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.