Every weekend millions of people attend sporting events as both spectators and players but do they ever consider the danger they may expose themselves to when they do so?
However, watching and playing sport can involve risk of injury to both spectator and player alike.
For anyone who causes injury to the player or spectator, there is the defence of volenti non-fit injuria, a legal doctrine and Latin phrase meaning “where the sufferer is willing no injury is done”.
It is a doctrine whereby a person who voluntarily gives consent to any harm he may suffer would not be able to receive any compensation from the person who harmed him, the defendant. For a defendant to successfully plead this defence he has to show that the player or spectator who consented to the act gave his consent freely, in the same way that someone who drives on the highway is presumed to consent to the risk of an accident, and had prior knowledge of the risk.
In the case of Hall V Brooklands Auto Racing the plaintiff was a spectator at a racing car event at Brooklands and the track owned by the defendant’s company. Two cars collided during the race, causing such an impact that one of them landed among the spectators, and the plaintiff spectator was injured. The court held that when spectators bought their tickets to watch the race, they had given implied consent and it ruled that Brooklands could successfully use the defence of volenti non-fit injuria since the victims had prior knowledge of the probable risks of watching motor racing and had consented to them.
Woods V Multi-Sport Holdings Party Ltd was a case in which Mr Woods, whilst playing indoor cricket, was hit in the eye and then lost the sight in that eye, but was unable to claim any compensation from Multi-Sport Holdings as the court held that he had agreed to suffer the injury and Multi-Sport successfully used the volenti non fit injuria defence. So, if a participant takes part in a sporting event, s/he de fact consents to the potential injuries.
However, an important point which must not be overlooked, is that whilst a participant can be taken to accept the risks of injury inherent in such sporting activities, they are not taken to accept the risks of injury which occur outside the rules of the game. This point is illustrated by the case of Condon V Bassi, a case in which Mr Condon played football for the Whittle Wanderers and was playing in a match with Khalso F.C., both Leamington clubs. During the match, Mr Condon suffered a broken leg when he was tackled.
The defence is not always successful, as the defendant discovered. It tried to plead volenti non fit injuria but the court stated that the standard of care expected of a football player changed according to the level of expertise the player has. The court found that the defendant was in breach of its duty of care as the tackle was reckless, even having regard to the standard expected of a local league player. The court held that even though a participant accepts the risk of injury associated with such sporting activities, they are not expected to accept the risk of injury which happens outside the rules of the game.
If you are a sportsman/woman and have been adversely affected by sporting injuries you have received in the past from other players, or just want more information about your rights and duties whilst playing, please contact HGW to receive specialist and professional advice from our litigation solicitors.
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