Interesting legal case

Discussion in 'Umpiring Corner' started by redumpire, Sep 4, 2015.

  1. redumpire

    redumpire FHF Staff
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    Here's the summary of an legal case recently completed in England, where a player sued a cricket umpiring association unsuccessfully, claiming that their negligence had led to his injury. It has no direct relevance to hockey, but goes to show that the bar is set pretty high in terms of players claiming negligence against officials (see in particular the comments under paragraph 2 of the decision).

    I don't think I've breached any copyright in posting this summary, but if I have I will be happy to delete this post immediately.

    *******

    THOMAS EDWARD BARTLETT v ENGLISH CRICKET BOARD ASSOCIATION OF CRICKET OFFICIALS (2015)
    Wolverhampton County Court 27/08/2015

    NEGLIGENCE - SPORT - PERSONAL INJURY

    BREACH OF DUTY OF CARE : CRICKET : DUTY OF CARE : GROUND CONDITIONS : PERSONAL INJURY : UMPIRES

    Cricket umpires had not been negligent in allowing a match to proceed despite earlier rainfall which had affected the ground's condition. They had carried out a thorough and careful ground inspection, with the players' safety a primary consideration. A player's subsequent injury had been caused by his incorrect use of a fielding technique, not the ground's condition.


    A cricket player claimed damages against the association representing cricket umpires for personal injuries sustained in an accident during a match.

    The player was captain of a cricket team. He had decided to call off the match because of heavy rainfall which he considered had made the pitch unsafe. The opposing team captain insisted that the match umpires inspect the ground in accordance with the Laws of Cricket. The umpires considered that it was not dangerous or unreasonable for play to take place. During the match, the player used a "sliding stop" technique which involved extending one leg while in a crouching position. When using that technique, it was necessary to extend the leg on the same side as the hand used to catch the ball in order to protect the knee. After performing the sliding stop, the player felt excruciating pain in his left leg and collapsed. He was found to have suffered a soft tissue injury requiring the use of a knee brace for eight weeks. The player held the umpires responsible for his injury by allowing play when the pitch was unfit. The association relied on volenti non fit injuria in that the player had chosen to play and to undertake the sliding stop on a ground he considered to be unsafe. According to the letter before action and the player's initial statement, he had led with his left leg when carrying out the sliding stop procedure. However, at trial he testified that those documents were incorrect and he had in fact led with his right leg.

    HELD: (1) It was an established principle that referees owed a duty of care to players to enforce the rules of the sport in question so as to minimise the inherent dangers of injury engendered by participation. Accordingly, cricket umpires owed a duty of care to the players involved in the game over which they officiated ...

    (2) Although a referee in a fast-moving game could not reasonably be expected to avoid errors of judgement, the umpires had had all the time they needed to reach a considered decision and had not been required to make a difficult assessment within seconds, Smoldon v Whitworth [1997] followed. Therefore, whilst the threshold of liability in umpiring decisions in the course of a game was high, that threshold was lower in the circumstances of the instant case.

    (3) Although the Laws of Cricket did not define what was "dangerous or unreasonable", it was common sense that it would be dangerous and unreasonable to allow play to proceed if the umpires considered the prevailing conditions were such that there was an obvious and foreseeable risk to the safety of the players. However, the fact that grass in a cricket ground was wet and slippery did not mean that the ground conditions were dangerous, as a match could be played safely even when conditions were not ideal. In accordance with Law 3.9 as it applied at the time, the umpires were entitled to conclude that it was unreasonable for play to take place if the ground was so wet or slippery as to deprive the fielders of the power of free movement around the pitch. The umpires had made a detailed assessment of the conditions and were in the best position, as compared to those who had carried out a more cursory appraisal, accurately to determine whether it was safe to play. Before making that decision, they had taken into account the teams' representations and had carried out a thorough and careful inspection. The players' safety had been a primary consideration in their decision-making process. Accordingly, the association was not in breach of its duty of care owed to the player and the other players

    (4) The player's evidence in the letter before action and statement was to be preferred to that given at trial. Accordingly, the player, who was right-handed, had carried out the sliding stop incorrectly by leading with his left leg instead of his right. That incorrect use of the technique had caused the injury to his knee in a manner that was a well known risk of the procedure being carried out incorrectly. In any event, the condition of the ground was not the cause or a material contributing factor of the player's injury.
     
    jayjay likes this.
  2. iZutam

    iZutam FHF Newbie

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    Long time reader, first post so go easy on me!

    I read this with intrigue and find myself linking it to our game and more so to freezing conditions.
    I often dont think that players have a full appreciation of the responsibility of umpires, and whilst its admirable that they are always so keen to play, safety has to be the main priority. After all, there arent many of us who get paid to play/umpire etc in this sport in comparisson to other sports.

    I have, on many an occasion received everything from light hearted jibes, to accusations of bias for calling games off at varying stages due to freezing pitches. One pitch I umpire on fairly regularly is well known for being fine at the start of a game, but quickly turning leading to games being called off by half time or soon after.

    I agree that the bar seems to be set pretty high, but still find it a shame that those involved in sport, who know there are inherent dangers, look to find some way of blaming others for a quick financial gain.
     
    Michael Byrne and steve like this.
  3. SPetitt

    SPetitt FHF Super Star

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    I have occasionally had problems with early games where the pitch is frosty in patches, but likely to improve, OR. after a storm, has puddles which are likely to dissipate.
    As an umpire, and if the conditions are marginal, I am usually happy to go by what the teams choose to do, as long as both sides agree. I don't see any real danger in a few puddles on astro ... it might make the play a bit of a farce at times, but surely it's better than sending the away team home, and messing-up the schedules? Frost is another matter, but often worth giving it a try for a few minutes.
    I have played in some really laughable conditions on semi-flooded/muddy/frozen grass pitches, and we always. at least, had a laugh, a run-around and no-one, as far as I recall, got hurt as a result of the playing conditions :)
    I really believe that it is very rarely 'too dangerous to play'(unless frozen) ... in most countries I've played, anyway (An electrical storm is a different kettle of fish!)
     
    #3 SPetitt, Sep 5, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2015
  4. Gingerbread

    Gingerbread FHF Super Star

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    It is best to check league rules - in the Midlands for example the captains call it, umpire thus is not liable for the choice to go ahead or not though can offer advice
     
  5. Ravennghorde

    Ravennghorde FHF Super Star

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    In my local league, Trysports covering Berks, Bucks and Oxon, it's the umpires call.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. SPetitt

    SPetitt FHF Super Star

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    Well, if I were a player faced with a pitch I regarded as unsafe to play on, I'd simply have refused to play ... it's only a game and I had a job to go to on Mondays! What are they gonna do?

    As an umpire I'd probably consider umpiring, but would make it clear that I strongly advised against play (assuming the league rules specified Captains' Choice)

    The rules might say one thing, but in reality, I don't think any team should be sanctioned for refusing to play, unless both umps and the opposing captain thinks they are taking the p155, for some other reason (eg it's truly brass monkey weather, or they've turned-up with only 8 players :rolleyes: )
     
  7. Nij

    Nij FHF All Time Great

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    Local regulations here require matches to be called off when lightning is within a certain distance (or rather, when time between flash and thunder is below a certain time).
    Otherwise it's the decision of the match director if one appointed, or the umpires otherwise.
    We tend to talk with the most sensible/mature person from each teamwhen deciding a marginal case, but just use our judgement otherwise.
    Waiting for frost to thaw or puddles to drain or hail to cease is easy enough.
     
  8. johnreiss

    johnreiss FHF Top Player

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    just thought I would add this. Normally, its the home team that is responsible for cancelling a game to prevent the away team travelling unnecessarily. Once the teams arrive, its up to the umpires to decide. In the case of any disagreement between one of the umpires or one of the captains, the game is called off. This is the 'unofficial' advice of the local HUA and is on the grounds that if one official believes the conditions to be unsafe then to ignore that advice may lead to legal action should there be an incident.

    Should a team/umpire be attempting to be taking the proverbial the aggrieved party can raise the issue with the local league committee for them to decide.
     
  9. Gingerbread

    Gingerbread FHF Super Star

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    Had a game a couple of years back where 2 teams where there - the pitch was a bit hard in places due to lack of sun and wasn't warming up, GK on home side wouldn't play on it, captains decided not to play so we all went home and there was a replay (I believe home team has to pay the costs and is billed for the appointed umpires) for not cancelling before the team has to travel.

    I double checked Midlands rules and the rule is basically that captains can flag up if they think the state of the pitch is a problem to the other captain and umpires before the game - the umpires can then postpone the game if they agree it is not of sufficient standard otherwise it should be played as a league game with the league making a decision - if a team didn't want to play I wouldn't force the issue and let the league decide
     
  10. Mac

    Mac FHF Legend

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    If anyone is REALLY interested in the case, I have the full text Judgment. It's 42 pages long though, so be warned.

    EDIT: I haven't read it yet, but the headnote, at (4), suggests some contributory negligence as well as voluntary assumption of responsibility by the player. I'll chip in later on, when I'm fully appraised of the facts.

    2nd EDIT: @redumpire - The headnote you posted and the full Judgment are documents of public record. No copyright issues arise.
     
    #10 Mac, Sep 7, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
  11. redumpire

    redumpire FHF Staff
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  12. CH.ump

    CH.ump FHF Regular Player

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    In the East of England postponements etc - "or the umpires deciding that the game cannot start or continue because of weather conditions, loss of light, injury to a player, etc" so if I & my colleague think it's not ok it's not ok
     
  13. SPetitt

    SPetitt FHF Super Star

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    Yes, @Gingerbread, if they don't want to play, it's wrong, IMO to try to 'coerce' them. However ...

    I once drove, with my brother's team, 2 1/2 hours through heavy rain & arrived to see the 1st XI Men's game just being abandoned due to a flooded pitch. The home captain and the 'home' umpire both wanted to postpone, but I was damned if I wanted to turn around and drive home (then have to do it all again, later) ... the rain had stopped, sun was out and pitch was slowly draining. Away captain and I eventually persuaded them to start, at least, and to 'see how we go'. The game was initially a bit farcical, with the ball stopping in the puddles, but, within about 20 mins, it was quite playable and we got through the game without ever any danger, had teas and a beer, and drove home ( I of course, as a driver, did not partake of the beer :rolleyes: )

    Moral is that, if the away team has travelled far, and still want to play, then home team and umps should try to accommodate them :) The arrival of astro has led to some desire only to play on 'perfect' surfaces ...
    There has been a tiny number of occasions when I've been glad/relieved not to play ... and a few more when I was happy not to have to brave the conditions to umpire (driving rain is the worst, IMO)!!
     

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