Rugby injury award overturned

Posted: 3rd November 2011

In March this year, a 20-year-old student was awarded compensation of £54,000 for injuries he sustained playing rugby when he was 16 years old.

Jack Sutton fractured his right kneecap during a pre-season practice match playing for Syston Rugby Football Club in Leicestershire. An investigation revealed that the cause of the injury was a broken plastic cricket boundary marker that wasn’t easily visible in the relatively lush grass.
Mr Sutton succeeded in his claim in the County Court that the Club was negligent in not carrying out a thorough inspection of the pitch prior to the, rugby ground
The Rugby Club appealed. It argued that it would have needed an inch by inch inspection of the playing area by more than one person to identify the debris and that the decision would impose an unduly onerous duty of care on sports clubs, well beyond what is reasonable with respect to their health and safety obligations.
The Court of Appeal upheld the appeal. Lord Justice Longmore said, “It is important that neither the game’s professional organisation, nor the law, should lay down standards that are too difficult for ordinary coaches and match organisers to meet.” Section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006 supports the principle that the courts should be slow to impose standards which might prevent ‘desirable activities’ from taking place. In the Court’s view, a reasonable ‘walk over the pitch’ inspection prior to the game would have been unlikely to reveal the broken boundary marker as it was obscured from view by the grass.