We are often approached with potential claimants who have been injured participating in some form of sporting activity, and we approach such cases with great caution, as they are extremely difficult to win. Many sports are dangerous, and it is an accepted risk that injury can occur. But some injuries occur not as a result of the sporting activity, but due to a negligent act.
In light of this, I read with interest of the Court of Appeal decision yesterday, to overturn a District Judge’s decision to award a young man, Jack Sutton, £54,000 after he sustained a gash to his knee at Syston rugby club near Leicester.
The three Court of Appeal Judges ruled that the County Court decision was wrong, and that a club’s “common law duty of care” would be met by a pitch inspection by a coach walking at a “reasonable” pace and that courts must not set safety standards that were “too difficult” to meet.
This decision will have an impact on many different types of sporting clubs, not just rugby, but will also cover the likes of Sunday league football fixtures, hockey games and the like.
In my opinion, it is a sensible approach to take. There is of course a duty upon sports clubs to ensure their pitches and playing areas are fit for purpose, but the Judges here are indicating that a counsel of perfection is not required. Whether this decision will have a further reaching impact is yet to be seen, as the decision could be mooted when considering cases involving school fields, and local playgrounds, maintained by local Councils.
This of course must be a hugely disappointing result for Mr Sutton, but one which demonstrates that there has to be common sense, common safety.
By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Kate Sweeney