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London court’s rugby ruling ‘sets precedent’
Pic: Alex Motoc on Unsplash

01 Mar 2023 / sports law Print

London court’s rugby ruling ‘sets precedent’

Lawyers for a mother of two left with life-changing injuries from a dangerous rugby tackle say the court's positive liability decision opens the way to similar cases, according to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales.

Dani Czernuszka, now 34, broke her spine after a challenge from Natasha King during an amateur match between Reading Sirens and Bracknell Ladies in 2017.

The victim, who was seven stone lighter than her opponent, was crouched down and waiting to pick up the ball, but was crushed by King exerting her full weight on her neck and back, a judge found.

Czernuszka, who now plays para ice hockey for Team GB, was in hospital for six months, and will need to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

In a judgment published last week, Mr Justice Martin Spencer acknowledged that claims for sporting injuries were rare, but said players "cannot be immune from the law of negligence".

n this case, King was heard to have threatened to 'break' the victim a few minutes before the injury was incurred, and the judge said she did "exactly what she set out to do" by making a tackle with "reckless disregard for the claimant's safety".

Further claims possible

Damian Horan, legal director with London firm Aspire Law, who represented Czernuszka, said that the claim could be worth as much as £10 million, which would ensure that she received the financial and rehabilitation support she needed.

According to the Gazette, he suggested that the ruling could make further sporting claims possible, having clarified the application of previous case law surrounding spinal-cord injury.

"Rugby is a sport to be enjoyed by players and spectators from grassroots level right through to the professional game," said Horan.

"However, this case is a timely reminder that a player's actions on the pitch never stay on the pitch, and can have catastrophic consequences.
"The outcome sets a legal precedent for future sporting-injury claims involving spinal-cord injuries, and we hope that Mrs Czernuska's case goes a long way to raise awareness of the dangers involved with foul play on the sporting field," he concluded.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland