Court rules on rugby injuries
Bloemfontein - A flagrant contravention of rugby rules that resulted in a serious injury could attract legal liability, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday.
The SCA dismissed an appeal by Alex Roux against an order of the Western Cape High Court, which declared he was legally liable for the neck injury of an opponent.
Ryand Hattingh’s neck was broken during a rugby match between the first teams of Labori High School and Stellenbosch High School in 2005.
Evidence in court found Hattingh, playing hooker, had complained about Roux’s scrumming manner prior to the conduct that resulted in the injuries.
As the forwards were forming a scrum, Roux had shouted the word "jack-knife" and then blocked the channel into which Hattingh’s head was meant to go.
Because of this, Hattingh’s head was forced downwards and his neck was broken.
The hooker who replaced Hattingh also complained about similar conduct against Roux.
Roux had denied any wrongdoing.
The high court accepted the evidence of Hattingh and rejected that of Roux.
It had found Roux had acted intentionally when he first shouted "jack-knife" before blocking Hattingh’s channel, and his conduct was wrongful.
The high court held Roux’s actions were planned and deliberate, extremely dangerous and in serious violation of the rules of the game.
Roux appealed to the SCA.
The unanimous judgment of five judges' found the high court’s factual findings could not be faulted and the conclusion that Roux had acted deliberately was faultless.
Roux’s conduct was indeed wrongful, and the SCA held it was so.
The judges found the "jack-knife" manoeuvre executed by Roux was in contravention of the rules as well as contrary to the spirit and conventions of the game.
The judges held Roux must have foreseen that the manoeuvre was likely to cause injury to Hattingh but proceeded to execute it nonetheless.
The SCA concluded that all the injuries were caused by Roux and dismissed an expert’s suggestion to the contrary.
The court considered the legal principles which would apply to wrongful claims arising from injuries suffered in a game such as rugby.
The judges found only conduct that constitutes a flagrant contravention of the rules of rugby and which was aimed at causing serious injury, or which was accompanied by a full awareness that serious injury may ensue, would be regarded as wrongful.
It would therefore attract legal liability for the resulting harm, the judgment held.