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B.C. sues police chief, 30 others for beaten former NHLer

The Canadian Press

8/10/2011 4:05:23 PM

VANCOUVER -- Garrett "Rocky" Burnett was best known as an NHL enforcer during his brief hockey league stint, but his reputation didn't protect him during a bar room brawl that put him on life support.

Now, the B.C. government is suing more than 30 people, including the Delta, B.C., police chief, to recover what it spent on Burnett's lengthy hospitalization and recovery.

The B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit, filed Aug. 9, said Burnett was smashed over the head with a bar stool, injuring his brain, putting him in a coma and on life support.

Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford was named as the person responsible for the two investigating officers, Paul Uppal and Lorne Pike, who the lawsuit said failed to safeguard exhibits such as video surveillance.

"He subsequently failed to conduct a full and thorough investigation of the assault and failed to keep any adequate record of such investigation," the lawsuit said of Uppal.

The lawsuit said Pike was assigned to collect surveillance video from the bar and the hard-drive computer that held a recording of the fight and events leading up to it.

"The surveillance video and hard drive were both subsequently lost or destroyed."

Delta Police spokeswoman Sgt. Sharlene Brooks said she doesn't know of any charges laid in connection to the brawl.

She wouldn't comment on the lawsuit.

"We don't want to compromise due process when the matter is before the courts," Brooks said.

The fight happened on Boxing Day, 2006 at the Cheers Nightclub inside the North Delta Inn.

The lawsuit lists the owner of the inn, a dozen of its employees and 10 unknown patrons as additional defendants.

"On several thousand occasions in the years preceding 2006, the Delta Police Department was called to the premises to respond to complaints and requests for assistance in respect of physical altercations around the premises," the lawsuit claims.

The government's lawsuit alleges the bar owner and its employees failed to make sure Burnett would be safe, didn't properly alert emergency responders after the assault and didn't have a proper system for watching alcohol consumption.

The lawsuit said staff failed to subdue exchanges of threatening behaviour and language at the bar leading up to the fight.

"These exchanges escalated into a violent fight between patrons, during the course of which the assault on Mr. Burnett occurred."

The lawsuit outlines a long list of injuries Burnett suffered on top of his brain injury, including broken facial bones, chipped teeth, loss of speech and co-ordination, double vision, and memory loss.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Burnett played 39 games for the Anaheim Ducks in the 2003-2004 season.

He took part in 22 fights and spent 184 minutes in the penalty box. He logged one goal and two assists.

The lawsuit doesn't specify a dollar figure for the health costs.

The court action is filed under the Health Care Costs Recovery Act, and is one of about 300 cases filed every month by the provincial government in order to recover health-care costs of an injured person.