Two Landmark Personal Injury Sports Cases

by Antony Heywood on September 3, 2013

The press coverage of personal injury law being applied to sport injuries in the case of Manchester United youth team player Ben Collett winning £4.3 million for a broken leg during a reserve team game would lead you to believe that these types of claims are fairly new in nature. The reality is somewhat different with cases dating back to the early 1960s.
Outlined below are two landmark cases that helped to shape personal injury law in the UK.

Wooldridge v Sumner (1963)

The case of Wooldridge v Sumner was based around an accident that occurred at xx were an experience horse rider injured a photographer when he lost control of his horse. The accident occurred when the rider galloped too quickly around a corner and lost control of his horse. The horse left the track and entered the crowd. As a result of the panic in the crowd the photographer Wooldridge (the plaintiff) was injured.

Was the defendant negligent because he failed to control his horse? It was held that the injury occurred due to an error of judgement and therefore was not a result of negligence on the part of Sumner.

In the judgement it was outlined that the relationship between a competitor and a spectator was a special one and that a spectator took the risk of any damage done to him during the course of the game, even though his injury resulted from an ‘error of judgment’ on the part of a competitor.

The case set the legal precedent that only “where the competitor deliberately intended to injure the spectator or demonstrated a reckless disregard for the safety of the spectator that the spectator would have a cause of action in respect of the damage done.”

Condon v Basi (1985)

The case of Condon v Basi dealt with the standard of care required by one sportsman to another.

In a game of football (soccer) played in the Leamington local league and tackle from the defendant broken the leg of the claimant. The defendant was playing for the Khalso Football Club and the claimant for Whittle Wanderers. The question before the court was the standard of care expected of a football player.

The defendant in the case was held to be negligent as the tackle had been made in a ‘reckless and dangerous manner’. As the tackle had been deemed to be dangerous the court did not have to resolve the conflict over the status and interpretation of Wooldridge v Sumner.

Another legal precedent was set when the judge Lord Justice Donaldson declared that the standard required to judge if an action was negligence depended on the skill level of those involved. A higher standard should be applied to a professional than a player in a local league.

This latter statement suggests that the court would have applied the standard based upon the reasonable sportsman rather than the approach based upon recklessness and that this would be the approach adopted in the future.

The tort created by Condon V Basi was used as the basis for a number of high profile cases in professional football including Paul Elliot V Saunders and Liverpool Football Club and Dean Ashton’s compensation claim against the Football Association.

Antony Heywood ©

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Antony Heywood
I am a blogger with an interest in a wide range of legal topics from family law to personal injury.
Antony Heywood

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