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Sports injuries

The use of the law of tort to secure compensation for injuries is the most commonly occurring example of national sports law in action. If catastrophic injury is caused then there is the potential for an aggrieved party to bring a legal action against the alleged wrongdoer. By far the most frequently utilised tortious action is brought in the law of negligence.

Since the seminal case of Condon v Basi [1985] 1 WLR 866 which involved a participant successfully suing an opponent for a late, high and dangerous tackle in an amateur football match, the growth in litigation has been rapid. In addition to participant / participant litigation, negligence actions for injuries caused on the field of play have been brought against: match officials for negligent application of the rules of rugby union (Vowles v Evans  and the Welsh Rugby Union Ltd [2003] EWCA Civ 318), governing bodies for failing to provide in their rules for appropriate medical provision at ringside in a boxing match  (Watson v British Boxing Board of Control [2001] QB 1134), organisers of the event (Wattleworth v Goodwood Road Racing Company Ltd & Ors, [2004] EWHC 140) and owners of sports grounds with regards to the safety of the playing surface (Sutton v Syston Rugby Football Club Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 1182).  It is, however, important to note that the courts have understood that in fast moving sports it is inevitable that there will be injury causing contacts that occur and that not all of them should result in tortious liability. There has to be more than a mere error of judgment or lapse of skill in order for the threshold for liability to be crossed.

The level of care required is that which is appropriate in all the circumstances, and the circumstances are of crucial importance (Caldwell v. Maguire and Fitzgerald [2001] EWCA 1054). If the defendant is a participant, employed by a club then the club will be vicariously liable for any act of the defendant that is closely connected to the sport they are participating in (Gravil v Caroll & Redruth RFC [2008] EWCA Civ 689).