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Appeal rejected, hazing abuse class-action lawsuit against QMJHL to go ahead

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League logo Quebec Major Junior Hockey League logo

The Quebec Court of Appeal has rejected a challenge to the authorization of a class-action lawsuit that alleges hazing abuse in the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League.

In a decision Tuesday, Justice Sophie Lavallee said the appeal by the QMJHL, the league's 18 teams and its umbrella organization -- the Canadian Hockey League -- did not meet the strict criteria needed to end the lawsuit.

The class action was filed last year by Carl Latulippe, a former Quebec minor hockey star who went public with alleged abuse suffered while playing for two teams in the mid-1990s.

The lawsuit authorized by Quebec Superior Court on April 10 seeks $650,000 for Latulippe in damages, including pain, suffering and humiliation, as well as lost productivity and therapy costs, and seeks another $15 million to be shared among other alleged victims.

The league had appealed on the grounds that the main applicant, Latulippe, had no link to "almost the totality" of the teams targeted in the lawsuit. The appeal application said the lower court judge erred by concluding that the case had to be heard on its merits before it can be determined whether all the league's teams are jointly liable.

However, Lavallee said Superior Court Justice Jacques Bouchard did not make errors in law and that details of which party is potentially responsible for damages will be debated later.

Lavallee wrote in her judgment that by "exercising the necessary caution, (Bouchard) uses his discretion not to immediately decide on this issue." The question of joint liability of the league and the other teams is "not a pure question of law" therefore "it is not an error at the authorization stage to decide that it will be settled on the merits."

Those covered in the class action are "all hockey players who have experienced abuse while they were minors and playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League" since July 1, 1969. The league was renamed the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League last year.

Latulippe first made public the alleged abuse he faced in an interview with Montreal's La Presse last year.

A first-round pick of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the 1994 QMJHL draft, Latulippe alleged that during training camp he was forced by veteran players to undress and masturbate in front of teammates on a team bus, with full knowledge of the coaches. He also alleges that team veterans assaulted rookies with soap wrapped in towels.

Latulippe left the team briefly after the bus incident and later returned at the behest of the coach, but when he discussed the abuse, he was allegedly told by the coach that the hazing would only last a year and help build character.

He played six regular-season games with the Sagueneens before joining the Drummondville Voltigeurs, where he alleges he faced more abuse.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2024. Top Stories


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