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Caldwell v Maguire [2001] EWCA Civ 1054

TORT – NEGLIGENCE – BREACH OF DUTY- SPORTS

Facts

The claimant was a professional jockey. He sustained severe injuries due to manoeuvres from two other jockeys a left turn in a race, which a later internal investigation by the Jockey Club deemed to be careless and against the rules. The claimant sued the pair in the tort of negligence.

Issue

Establishing negligence involves showing that the defendant owed the claimant a duty of care, which they breached in a manner that caused the claimant recoverable harm. To establish breach, the claimant must show that the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would in their position: that they failed to meet the standard of care. The issue was the threshold of the standard of care in professional sporting events.

Held

The Court of Appeal held the defendants non-liable.

They affirmed the following principles set out by the first-instance judge:

  1. Contestants in a lawful sporting contest each owe each other a duty of care;
  2. The duty is to exercise the care which is objectively reasonable in the circumstances to avoid causing injury;
  3. The relevant circumstances are those properly attendant on the event, including its purpose, demands, rules and customs, inherent dangers and the standard reasonably expected of contestants;
  4. The relevant circumstances in many sports will make the threshold for liability quite high, meaning that a mere error of judgement or skill will not suffice. It may be hard to prove breach without evidence of reckless disregard for the claimant’s safety.

In this case the stressful, fast-paced nature of the race and the fact that its object is to compete for the best place meant that the threshold required to establish breach was high, and was not met by the defendant’s behaviour. 


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