Rugby Player’s Opponent Liable for Injury Caused by Collision


A rugby player has succeeded in his claim before the High Court that an opponent who collided with him during a match was liable for the severe injury he sustained.

The man was participating in an amateur Rugby Union match. As the second half began, an opponent ran forward to chase the ball and collided with him. He suffered a serious spinal injury. The match was finished on another pitch as the man was not moved until the emergency services arrived.

Following the match, which was being filmed for referee training purposes, a disciplinary panel found that there were no grounds for ruling that the collision had been either dangerous charging or shouldering, or that anything contrary to good sportsmanship had occurred. However, the man brought proceedings alleging that the collision resulted from a reckless or negligent breach of the duty of care the opponent owed him as a fellow participant in the match.

After analysing the video footage, the Court concluded that the opponent had run at full speed towards the man, moving towards the right shortly before the collision. The man had also begun to move slightly to the right. It was suggested that the safest course would have been for him to remain still, but the Court could not see why he would not move or why an opposing player would reasonably expect him not to do so.

Noting that the man had had his back to the opponent, the Court observed that the opponent could have avoided the collision if he had slowed down or deviated from his line. In running so close to the man, he had taken the risk that forceful contact would occur if the man moved even slightly.

Having considered the expert evidence presented to it, the Court found that the collision was avoidable or could at least have been reduced to a soft contact which would not have led to the man being injured. In running at the man at full speed and colliding with him as he did, the opponent had been reckless. As such, he was liable for the man’s injuries.

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