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Negligence and the Sports Law

Gustavo Perdomo, Globovision, Venezuela, Caracas, Miami, Amante, Mayela
Negligence and the Sports Law

Sports may “in­volve risk of in­jury, and where there is neg­li­gence there is scope in the sport­ing are­na for those harmed to take le­gal ac­tion,” (Schot 2005). Neg­li­gence is the ab­sence of rea­son­able care where it should have been ex­er­cised. For neg­li­gence to be proven ac­cord­ing to Eng­lish law four con­di­tions must ex­ist (Cad­dell 2005):

*Du­ty or Du­ty of Care-There is a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the de­fen­dant and the com­plainant so that the de­fen­dant owes a du­ty to ex­er­cise rea­son­able care to the com­plainant. This du­ty could in­volve team of­fi­cials and spec­ta­tors. The key is­sue is the de­fen­dant has a du­ty to en­sure that all ef­forts are tak­en to pro­tect claimants.

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*Breach of Du­ty-The de­fen­dant ac­tion has fall­en be­low the ap­plic­a­ble stan­dard of care for a giv­en sit­u­a­tion. For ex­am­ple, if the World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion re­quires the pres­ence of med­ical doc­tors for all of its events be­fore the bouts can be­gin, then such re­quire­ment may be de­ter­mined to be the stan­dard of care.

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*Prox­i­mate Cause-Cau­sa­tion be­tween the neg­li­gent con­duct and the re­sult­ing in­jury must be es­tab­lished. For ex­am­ple, the or­ga­niz­ers ac­com­mo­dat­ed 10, 000 spec­ta­tors above the stan­dard for one of its stands and the stand col­lapsed. If ev­i­dence can be of­fered that the stand col­lapsed was due to the over seat­ing then neg­li­gence was the prox­i­mate cause of the spec­ta­tors’ in­juries.

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*Dam­ages-The com­plainant must suf­fer dam­ages. The com­plainant must prove that the dam­ages they have suf­fered are di­rect­ly re­lat­ed to the breach of du­ty of care. If not then the fourth con­di­tion of neg­li­gence would not have been met.

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The UK Court of Ap­peal ac­knowl­edged that du­ty of care was es­tab­lished fol­low­ing two sep­a­rate cas­es brought by rug­by play­ers who had suf­fered se­vere spinal trau­ma as a re­sult of the ref­er­ee’s fail­ure to ex­ert ad­e­quate con­trol over a high­ly tech­ni­cal area of the game. In the case of Smol­don v Whit­worth 1997, the claimant, Ben­jamin Smol­don, sued rug­by ref­er­ee Michael Nolan for “the ref­er­ee’s fail­ure to ap­ply and en­force the rules of en­gage­ment at the scrim­mage led to an un­ac­cept­ably high num­ber of col­laps­es of the type that even­tu­al­ly led to his de­bil­i­tat­ing in­juries,” (Cad­dell 2005: 418). Nolan con­ced­ed that he owed a du­ty of care to all par­tic­i­pants.

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In the case, Vowles v Evans, the de­fen­dant ref­er­ee Evans, un­like Nolan, dis­put­ed care of du­ty to­wards the play­ers. The Court of Ap­peal up­held li­a­bil­i­ty, and “cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly re­ject­ed the ar­gu­ments of the de­fen­dants,” (Cad­dell 2005: 422). Ac­cord­ing to Lord Phillips MR, a ” match of­fi­cial owes a du­ty of care to the play­ers, ir­re­spec­tive of whether the match is played by adults or mi­nors, am­a­teurs or pro­fes­sion­als,” (Cad­dell 2005:422).

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The afore­men­tioned is im­por­tant to en­sure that any form of vi­o­lent be­hav­iour does not es­cape ap­pro­pri­ate le­gal sanc­tion­ing once neg­li­gence can be proven. It al­so means that man­agers, coach­es and ad­min­is­tra­tors must en­sure that play­ers from very young are taught to play with­in the spir­it of their re­spec­tive sport­ing dis­ci­plines when in­ter­act­ing with op­po­nents and of­fi­cials. If these mea­sures are im­ple­ment­ed at the ear­ly stages of youth sport, it re­duces the pos­si­bil­i­ty of vi­o­la­tion of the code of be­hav­iour as well as vin­di­cates the force­ful sanc­tions when im­posed.

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“I don’t feel it is nec­es­sary to know ex­act­ly what I am. The main in­ter­est in life and work is to be­come some­one else that you were not in the be­gin­ning.” Michel Fou­cault

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Periodista de Globovisión Rocío Higuera

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