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Sporting injury compensation claims – an even playing field?

Injuries sustained during sporting activities can be controversial when it comes to personal injury claims. Clearly, there is some truth when people state that by undertaking high-impact sports, such as rugby, that there is an element of risk, and this is known by the participants prior to them taking part. However, if this argument is followed, there would be many other types of legitimate personal injury claims, where there has clearly been negligence, which would also become invalid. One could, for example, argue that by undertaking a labour-intensive job involving heavy machinery and goods equally carries risk of injury. However, if an injury is sustained and that employee has not been given training and/or safety equipment, there is clearly negligence on behalf of the employer.

It was with some interest, therefore, that I came across a recent case involving Syston Rugby Club, who recently won their appeal against liability for an injury caused to a club member. The club had previously been ruled liable following an accident whereby a student suffered a fracture injury to his right kneecap when he fell on a broken cricket stump embedded into the ground during his training session.

Initially, the courts held that a walking inspection of the ground should have been undertaken to identify any foreign objects, not just for match games but also for training purposes as stated within the RFU (risk assessment guidelines), and that particular attention should be paid to the ‘touch down’ zones of the pitch. As no such inspection was completed by the coach/club officials prior to the training session, the player was open to the risk of injury and that the club’s ‘duty of care’ had therefore been breached.

However the Court of Appeal decided that while it was true the club failed to inspect, the pitch, the evidence was that a ‘reasonable inspection’ would most likely  have failed to identify the broken cricket stump, due to it being embedded in the grass and therefore not obviously visible.

We are still awaiting the outcome of an appeal hearing on a similar case I have previously blogged on.  Calderdale Council, who were successfully sued following an injury sustained by an amateur football player as a result of a poorly maintained pitch, were granted right to appeal the £22,700 compensation claim award handed down by Dewsbury County Court.

Within the Compensation Act 2006 it is outlined that courts should be slow to impose standards which might prevent ‘desirable activities’, including organised activities such as football and rugby, from taking place. Where causation can clearly be identified and breach of duty of care proven, however, the injured party is still eligible to pursue a personal injury claim for sporting injuries. With the potential precedent such a claim would set, however, it seems that the lines drawn on ‘duty of care’ are much deeper for sporting injury claims than for other types of personal injury claims.

If you would like to speak to a sports lawyer about pursuing an injury claim, please don’t hesitate to contact us

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