Sports Law- important UK case on negligence on the playing field
A recent High Court case in the UK has established a number of very important principles in relation to the test to be applied in establishing whether an injury caused in the course of sporting activity amounted to negligence.
In this case in an under 18 match between Fulham and Swansea City a young player of the name of Mr Jones who was 18 years suffered a career ending injury and sued the Swansea City, the Club, who employed the player who inflicted the injury for vicarious liability for the alleged negligence of the offending player.
In the court of first instance, vicarious liability was imposed on Swansea City who appealed this decision to the English High Court.
In overturning the decision the High Court made four important statements in relation to the issues to be determined: –
- It referred to a previous 2001 case of Caldwell v Maguire and Fitzgerald in establishing the correct test for negligence in a sporting occasion such as this. It said that injuries in a professional sporting context requires more than proof that the rules had been breached. It held that it was not appropriate to simply align ‘serious foul play’ with the concept of negligence.
- It held that the ‘recorder’ i.e. court of first instance had applied too low a test for recklessness/quasi-recklessness.
- The lower court did not take the fact that the referee had not determined that the tackle in question which caused the injury amounted to a foul into account. While it said that the decision of the referee could not be definitive in itself of the outcome of negligence it was certainly persuasive and had to be taken into account.
- It said the court of first instance gave no reasons of its rejection of the expert evidence provided by the appellant.
In conclusion this case establishes that in order to establish negligence in the throws of sporting activity a claimant must be able to establish that the act in causing the injury was one which amounted to negligence rather than one which simply breached the particular rules in question.
For any queries on any matter relating to any matter relating to Sports Law please do not hesitate to contact Brendan Dillon on 01 296 0666.