David McWilliam

Partner, Solicitor and Head of Personal Injury & Sports Law

DATE PUBLISHED: 12 May 2020 LAST UPDATED: 10 Mar 2021

Saracens Rugby Club Sued by Former Player

Premiership Rugby Union club Saracens face more controversy as they are being sued by their former player, Matt Hankin, who has issued Court proceedings after he suffered a career ending concussion after being struck over the head with a fire extinguisher during a team bonding trip. The incident happened in a Budapest bar on 6 September 2015. The players were playing a drinking game and Hankin was hit on the head with a fire extinguisher whilst wearing a metal helmet. He claims he suffered a long term injury with concussion and was forced to retire from the professional game at the end of the 2017/2018 season.

Hankin, who is now aged 27, was part of the England under 20 side that won the Junior World Championship in 2013 and was on course for a very successful professional career.

He has now brought a claim against his former team mate, Richard Barrington who hit him on the head, the former club doctor, Ademola Adejuwon and the club, Saracens.

Liability has been denied.

Hankin claims that Mr Barrington hit him on the head and that his club are vicariously liable for the actions of their physiotherapist, Nicholas Court, as he failed to properly assess him on his return from Budapest the week after the incident. Furthermore, he has claimed against the club doctor in that he was negligent in allowing him to return to playing on 3 October 2015 (only 3 weeks after the incident) when he alleges further injury occurred. He has not played rugby since 3 October 2015.

Concussion in rugby is treated extremely seriously. There are strict guidelines for adult concussion and a set of Management Guidelines in place. The earliest a player would be able to return to play is 19 days after the injury, but that is a minimum standard.

This is a very interesting case which raises a number of legal issues as follows:-

  • Battery – the intentional offensive or harmful touching of another person that is done without his or her consent;
  • Negligence
  • Vicarious liability – The physiotherapist and the club doctor were acting in the course of their employment with Saracens and the club could be held liable for their actions.
  • Employer’s liability
  • Medical negligence – Both the club doctor and physiotherapist may have acted negligently.
  • Volenti non fit injura – Did Hankin willingly place himself in a position where harm might result or knew that some degree of harm might result?
  • Contributory negligence – By taking part in the drinking game, did Hankin accept some risk?
  • Causation – Did the incident cause the concussion initially and the continuing concussion symptoms that forced him to retire?
  • Concussion in rugby

It will be interesting to see how this case plays out as there are a number of parties and issues involved. The claim is potentially worth a large amount due to Hankin’s loss of earnings claim.

If you have any queries on any sporting legal issues, then contact our Head of Sports Law, David McWilliam on 01202 057710 or email him at david.mcwilliam@ellisjones.co.uk.

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