Rugby damages award set to spark legal goldrush

A RUGBY league player's landmark legal victory against a rival team after his jaw was broken will open the floodgates to similar claims, say sports law solicitors.

Dean Thomas, who played for Ryedale York, was awarded £7,000 in his action against Bramley in the first case of a professional rugby league player winning damages for an injury.

Bramley was found vicariously liable for the injury.

“Lawyers will see a lot more of these kinds of cases,” says Jonathan Taylor, a solicitor at Townleys, who represent several governing bodies.

Thomas' victory follows a similar action in football . Bradford City player Gordon Watson sued Huddersfield's Kevin Gray for a dangerous tackle. Watson was awarded £50,000 interim damages.

Taylor warns that the growth of such actions will discourage people from becoming referees and officials for fear of being sued.

He says sports should be policed by their own governing bodies.

Taylor says that although the decision will mean extra work for lawyers: “I would rather be doing applications for youth academies than defending law suits.”

Richard Cramer of Leeds firm McCormicks, which represented Thomas, comments: “This is a landmark decision in professional rugby. “Any opponent who knowingly takes a significant risk in causing significant injury to his opponent is now liable in a civil action for damages.”

Thomas had his jaw broken while trying to wrestle the ball off an opponent. The judge said a reasonable opponent would have known there was a risk of serious injury.