Medical Negligence in Professional Sport

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Medical Negligence | No Comments
Medical Negligence in Professional Sport

Last week former Tottenham Hotspur youth team player Radwan Hamed was reportedly awarded £7million in compensation after being left with brain damage after collapsing during a match in 2006. This result follows on from further high profile litigation in which former professional rugby union player Cillian Willis recently instigated legal proceedings against his former club Sale
Sharks.tottenham

For a professional sportsman (or anyone in fact) to have a chance of launching a successful claim for personal injury it is important for the Claimant to show that there was a breach of a legal duty to take care which results in damage.

 

The Claimant must be able to show that the Defendant owed the Claimant a duty of care. Using the above example, Hamed’s legal team argued that Tottenham Hotspur’s medical staff and the Football Association’s regional cardiologist for South East England owed Hamed a duty to guard him from health risks.

This legal duty was breached when in a screening prior to signing for Tottenham Hostpur, an electrocardiogram test showed Hamed’s heart was “unequivocally abnormal”.  No further tests were carried out by Tottenham’s medical team post signing and Hamed was not stopped from playing.

The Judge in Hamed’s case concluded that the club doctors and the FA’s regional cardiologist had breached a legal duty owed to him, Mr Justice Hickingbottom stated that;

 

“It was their responsibility, as specialist physicians and employers, to ensure that relevant risks were identified and communicated to the claimant and his parents to enable them to make an informed decision as to whether to bear them. In this, they singularly failed.”

 

Radwan Hamed and his family have always maintained that had he known the cardiac risks he faced he would not have pursued a career as a professional footballer. The medical personnel were negligent in not identifying and informing him of the risks he faced.

Sadly for Hamed, on his Tottenham debut for the youth team, he collapsed during a match in Belgium in August 2006 suffering a cardiac arrest which left him brain damage. Therefore Hamed suffered damage that was caused by the failings of those with a duty to care for his physical well-being and health.

Ultimately it was decided by the Judge that Tottenham were 70% at fault and the FA’s cardiologist was responsible for the remaining 30%. You may ask why it is Tottenham and the FA that have been deemed liable for the damages due to Hamed. In English law there is a principal called ‘Vicarious Liability’. This principal states that an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees, provided it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment. As the negligent medical personnel in this case cared for Hamed as part of their employment, their employers were subsequently held to be liable.

The case of Radwan Hamed is a sad one, a young talented footballer left brain damaged and unable to live independently. The damages awarded to him are substantial. When calculating the damages a number of factors will have been taken into account; including (but not limited too) compensation for loss of future earnings as a professional footballer and provisions for his ongoing care and support.

 

Cillian Willis a former rugby union player is also alleging that two doctors at Sale Sharks wrongfully handled and incorrectly treated two head injuries he sustained during a cup match against Saracens in March 2013.

Willis is claiming to have been concussed in the first half of the match, when the Sale medical staff deemed him fit to continue playing. He claims that doctors were negligent once more by allowing him to play on after suffering a second blow early in the second half before he was eventually substituted.

Willis has accused Sale Sharks of negligence in relation to a career ending concussion. This case is in it’s infancy and both the Claimant’s and the Defendant’s solicitors will be seeking the opinions of medical experts.

In cases where it is clear that negligence has occurred (this is often after seeking expert medical opinion) the parties tend to settle. However if an agreement cannot be reached in respect of the breach of duty or the amount of damages then the case will progress to the Courts.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Willis concussion case, especially following the NFL concussion lawsuit where 4,500 former America Football player sued the NFL; eventually settling the claim at a staggering $765million.

Finally and on a slightly more positive note, the above cases will and already have raised awareness of the underlying physical problems that can seriously affect professional sportsmen.

 

In 2012 Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest playing for Bolton Wanderers, coincidentally against Tottenham. Since then the FA have teamed up with the British Heart Foundation and there is a defibrillator at every professional football ground. There is now an emphasis on protecting players and recently Sunderland player Patrick Van Aanholt was withdrawn from Sunderland’s starting XI just 15 minutes before kick-off  of a match at Tottenham in September 2016. Sunderland manager, David Moyes, explained that this was because of a phone call from a cardiologist to Sunderland’s club doctor. Thankfully Patrick was OK and has been cleared to continue playing; however the action taken by the Sunderland’s medical staff is a clear example of the progress being made.

 

 

Should you think that you or someone close to you (whether a professional or amateur sportsmen) is a victim of a situation similar to that of Radwan Hamed or Cillian Willis, please do not hesitate me on davidseligman@cmsolicitors.co.uk.

 

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