A professional jockey has pursued a negligence claim against a fellow competitor after he suffered serious injuries during a race at the 2015 Mudgee Cup.
However, the defendant attempted to have the compensation claim dismissed before it reached a trial by referring to a precedent case (Goode v Angland) from last year. On that occasion, the plaintiff was unsuccessful after three appellate judges upheld a decision that professional horse racing is a recreational activity that poses obvious risks to participants.
The obvious risk defence, which is outlined in the Civil Liability Act 2002, was sufficient to quash that claim, but was it enough to dismiss proceedings in this case?
A crucial factor in the current claim is that the defendant had already pled guilty to a charge of breaching the Australian Rules of Racing 137. Specifically, he pulled in too close in front of another horse, causing that rider to fall and creating a hazard for other participants. The behaviour fell under the description of careless, reckless, improper, incompetent or foul riding.
Judge David Russell argued this was the key differentiator between the case and Goode v Angland. He noted that while professional athletes in certain sports are exposed to the obvious risk of injury that comes with participating, this is based on an expectation that other competitors follow the rules.
“If it were otherwise, every sport or recreational activity would be akin to bareknuckle fighting from the 19th century, or trial by battle from an earlier time,” he explained.
Judge Russell referred to another similar case, which we have previously summarised, where a young girl was injured after she crashed a quad bike.
The appellate judges in that claim ruled that quad biking is clearly a dangerous recreational activity that poses an obvious risk. Nevertheless, the girl was only injured because her instructor had been riding too fast for novices, forcing them to speed up and ultimately leading to the plaintiff’s crash.
The judge dismissed the defendant’s attempt to throw the case out, which means the claim is likely to proceed to court unless a settlement is reached beforehand.
If successful, the plaintiff’s case could open the door for more professional sports people to pursue liability claims against competitors who cause injuries through negligent behaviour.
To find out whether you are entitled to compensation for injuries that you’ve sustained, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for a free consultation.