Dave Berry | Senior Associate

Former professional rugby stars intend to pursue governing bodies for negligence

A group of around 70 former professional rugby players have recently went public with their intention to pursue personal injury claims against the sport’s governing bodies. Announcing their intention to pursue legal action in The Guardian, the group allege that The Rugby Football Union, the Welsh Rugby Union and World Rugby were negligent in their treatment of the players with regards to repeated concussions sustained throughout their careers. These failures, the group alleges, have resulted in injuries ranging from amnesia, depression, migraines and early onset dementia.

The claim is similar to those raised in other sports around the world. In the US, 4,500 former NFL players pursued legal action against the NFL. In football, evidence increasingly suggests that excessive heading of the ball can lead to problems in later life. Sir Bobby Charlton was recently the fifth member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning squad to be diagnosed with dementia.

The press has described these actions as a reckoning for sport as a whole, and if any action is successful, it is likely that massive changes may be required to mitigate the risks of head injuries in the future.

Group proceedings in Scotland

Although litigation has not yet commenced, the former rugby players intend to raise one legal action for all individual claims. This is commonly known as a class action. Until recently there was no such competent action in Scotland. This was changed with the passing of the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Act 2018.

The 2018 Act now provides a mechanism for class actions to be pursued in Scotland. These are known as “group proceedings” and can be raised in the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court. Claims will only be allowed to proceed where the court concludes that:-

  • The claims made raise issues which are the same as, or related to, each other, and;
  • The representative party has made all reasonable efforts to contact potential members of the group about the proceedings.

The ability to pursue group proceedings commenced on 31 July 2020.

No legal action, or claims, have been raised against the bodies who oversee professional sport in Scotland, although there is a possibility of such claims being brought to the Court of Session in future. Any such action could be raised using group proceedings outlined above, meaning that former sporting professionals in Scotland could raise a similar action to their counterparts in England & Wales.

In Scotland we are of course proud of our sporting heritage, but if furthering the sport has come at the expense of a player’s health then that may mean the governing bodies will be liable for compensation. Such compensation would likely cover the pain and suffering experienced by players resulting from their condition, any loss of future employment or any effect on their future career prospects. Costs may be awarded for care costs that will likely be required in the future.

What Jackson Boyd can do

If you would like to discuss any of the issues above, or discuss a personal injury claim, get in touch with Jackson Boyd today. Our experienced team can provide you with legal advice in respect of your individual situation, and our track record shows that we know how to get results for our clients.

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Personal Injury Team

“It may be something of a cliché but I enjoy helping my clients and guiding them through what can often be the daunting prospect of being involved in a personal injury court action, whilst also ensuring I obtain the best possible result for them.”

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