Sutton v Syston Rugby Football Club [2011] EWCA Civ 1182

The claimant (C) was a rugby player who sustained injury to his knee when he fell on a broken cricket boundary marker during the course of a rugby training session organised by the defendant (D).

C alleged that D ought to have inspected the pitch before allowing it to be used. D accepted that it owed a duty of care to C and that the pitch should have been inspected but argued that an inspection would not have revealed the broken cricket boundary marker as it didn’t obtrude above the surface of the grass.

At first instance, C succeeded. The judge held that the inspection of the pitch should have been conducted at a reasonable walking pace but greater care should have been paid to the touch-down areas of the pitch as the players were expected to fall to the ground in these areas.

D appealed. In allowing the appeal, the Court of Appeal held:

  • rugby was a ‘desirable activity’ as defined by section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006
  • it was obviously correct that the pitch should be inspected; this duty applied to matches and training sessions
  • the appropriate standard of inspection applied to the whole pitch
  • it was too complicated to apply different standards of care to different parts of the pitch
  • a reasonable walking inspection would not have detected the boundary marker and therefore D was not liable.