Plaintiff seeking compensation after allegedly injuring himself playing football.
Mr Hale, the plaintiff, played junior football. During the first quarter of the game, the plaintiff was running fast towards the forward pocket and leapt in the air to mark the football. He caught the ball and as he landed his left boot got caught in the wire fence outside the boundary line. He crashed to the ground and badly injured his left knee.
The plaintiff sued the football club (club), the football league (league) that organised the competition he was playing in and the local council (council, together the defendants). He wanted to be paid compensation for the consequences of his knee injury. He argued his injury was the defendants’ fault for having the wire fence too close to the boundary line and that they were negligent.
The club and the league said the boundary line complied with standards set out by the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) and there had never been any problems with it before, so the injury was not caused by any fault of their part.
They also said that if there was any fault, then it was also the Council’s fault (the council was contributorily negligent and should be held partly responsible).
The council also said the boundary line complied with standards set out by VAFA and that it had an agreement with the club that the club would take responsibility when playing on that field. The agreement meant the club was responsible for anything that happened when it was playing on the ground so, if there was any fault, it was the club’s responsibility.
Finally, the council said the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and the league was as well.
The Judge found all three defendants owed the plaintiff a duty of care as set out in the Wrongs Act. This legislation required particular people or parties to take care in relation to other people: where they don’t do this, they are breaching the Act.
In a civil case, the plaintiff has to prove this ‘on the balance of probabilities’: this is called the ‘standard of proof’. The standard of proof is the measure the Judge holds the evidence up against to decide whether or not the plaintiff should be believed.
The Judge found that, on the balance of probabilities, the evidence indicated the boundary line did not comply with the VAFA guidelines and was less than three metres from the fence. The Judge found all three defendants had breached their duty of care, but the club and the league were more directly responsible than the council because they had direct control over marking out the boundary line.
The plaintiff did not do anything that made him responsible for the injury.
In assessing the damages (amount of money) the plaintiff should be paid, the Judge considered evidence about the plaintiff’s medical treatment, lifestyle, ability to work and any future treatment or impacts on his life.
The Judge decided the plaintiff should be paid $375,000 and that his past medical expenses, earnings and care should also be paid back to him. The Judge also ordered the defendants pay the plaintiff $150,000 against a potential loss of ability to earn income in future because of the injury, and $46,500 for any future medical expenses.