Jack Sutton to pay back £54,000 over rugby injury

A Nottingham student who was given £54,000 damages after he injured his knee during training at a rugby club has been ordered to pay the money back.

Jack Sutton, 20, was 16 and playing for the under-17s team at Syston Rugby Club in Leicestershire when he fractured his right knee cap on 2 July 2007.

He sued the club claiming there had not been an adequate pitch inspection.

A statement said he was "disappointed" and "will probably suffer from his injury for the rest of his life".

The Appeal Court has now ruled Mr Sutton should pay back the damages and £57,500 in court costs.

'Reasonable walk'

The court heard Mr Sutton had been injured on the "sharp stub" of a broken plastic cricket boundary marker when he was playing tag rugby.

Although he can now play rugby again, "he cannot take as full a part as he once did because he is always thinking of what happened that July", the court was told.

Overturning the payout decision, Lord Justice Longmore said: "It is important that neither the game's professional organisation, nor the law, should lay down standards that are too difficult for ordinary coaches and match organisers to meet.

"Games of rugby are, after all, no more than games and, as such are obviously desirable."

The judge, who sat with Lord Justice Rimer and Mr Justice Warren, said if a pitch was inspected by a coach who walked at a "reasonable" pace, a club's "common law duty of care" would be satisfied.

He said a "reasonable 'walk over the pitch' inspection" would have been "unlikely to reveal" the marker stub, which was "below the level" of lush grass.

'Tough time'

Lawyers for the club said it would have taken a fingertip search of the pitch by several people to uncover the debris.

They said a legal requirement for sports clubs of any level to carry out such a pre-match routine "went too far and exceeded what was acceptable".

Barrister Matthew Boyle said: "Nobody playing saw the marker.

"Even after the accident, two of the witnesses still couldn't see the marker from perhaps two feet away.

"They said they had to look down with their hands to find it."

A statement from Mr Sutton's father Peter Sutton said: "We can only hope that nothing like this ever happens again to any other young player and that the responsibilities bestowed on the grounds men and coaches are taken more seriously in the future.

"Jack's had a tough time and will probably suffer from his injury for the rest of his life.

"It is most upsetting but he is now trying to concentrate on his university studies as well as preparing for further surgery on his knee."

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