legal

Group order in rugby injury litigation 'premature', High Court rules



Nearly 300 rugby players will have to wait at least another five months to see if they can bring a group action against the sport’s governing bodies in relation to compensation claims for brain injuries, in a long-running case closely being followed by other sports due to the potentially significant implications.

A case management hearing took place in a packed courtroom 75 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London this morning, where Master Cook heard an application by the claimants for a group litigation order in relation to claims against World Rugby Limited, Welsh Rugby Union Limited and Rugby Football Union. The GLO relates to claims issued in respect of concussive and sub-concussive injuries leading to permanent long-term damage in playing rugby.

The court heard that there were now four claim forms covering 295 players and that more players were approaching the claimants’ solicitors.

39 Essex Chambers’ Susan Rodway KC, for the claimants, told the court her legal team had tried to identify players who represent a range of factual scenarios and route to liability. Rodway said every player in the selected cohort ‘present as players who suffered cumulative injuries’. Crown Office Chambers’ Michael Kent KC, for Welsh Rugby Union, said the defendants needed to access the claimants’ medical records to be able to select test or lead cases for a GLO.

After hearing submissions, Master Cook said it would be ‘premature’ to order a group litigation order today. ‘There needs to be proper consideration by both parties how they will put forward a suitable number of [players] to represent their position’.

The next hearing will be in late April or early May.

Cook said: ‘By the time we’re all back here today, there will be case management and there will be resolution to some of the issues. Whether it’s a group of cases let loose into the wide world or whether it is coordinated or chaperoned or part of a formal GLO, it’s going to happen – but it must happen in an orderly way and in a way that’s proportionate and not demanding of the court’s resources.

‘I’m acutely aware of how long this has been in gestation. I’m acutely aware of each of the position of the claimants. These issues are going to be resolved – there’s no doubt about that. However, it has to be resolved on the basis of a collaborative approach between the parties, and the parties and the court.’

 



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