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Concussion case at High Court in London

Paul Cully

Landmark concussion litigation brought against World Rugby, the RFU and the Wales Rugby Union will reach the High Court in London today, marking a pivotal moment for the sport.

Former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman, who has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), is part of the claim, while lawyer Richard Boardman told Stuff that “a handful” of other New Zealanders are also involved.

The claimants will apply for a group litigation order, and for anonymity – for those who haven’t already gone public and might be involved in future litigation.

If they win the right for the claims to go forward as a group litigation order, it will expand the size of the litigation exponentially, and increase the potential damages that World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU would have to pay.

Lawyers for the claimants want to use 45 brain injury cases to be representative of a much bigger claim involving 295 players.

Lawyers for the claimants, Rylands Garth, say group litigation orders “are commonly associated with industrial disease claims such as respiratory problems for coal miners”.

If they are not successful in this application, claims would have to proceed as several hundred individual cases.

“Over 35 former players in these concussion actions have now spoken out publicly about their brain injuries, which we state were caused by playing contact sport, including Ryan Jones, Bobbie Goulding, Steve Thompson, Alix Popham, Dan Scarbrough, Carl Hayman, Neil Clark, Jason Hobson, as well as John Stiles, the son of 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles,” Rylands Garth said in a statement.

“The players we represent love the games they played.

“We aim to challenge the current perceptions of the sports governing bodies, to reach a point where they accept the connection between repetitive blows to the head and permanent neurological injury and to take steps to protect players and support those who are injured.”

The claimants allege that rugby authorities were “negligent in failing to take reasonable action in order to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows”.

In a statement provided to The Guardian, World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU said: “We remain saddened to hear the stories of former players who are struggling.

“Despite court orders to do so, the players’ lawyers have yet to provide full details of the claims being made against us.

“Therefore we cannot comment on the ongoing legal action, nor reach out to the players directly. We would want players involved to know that we listen, we care and continue to champion player welfare as the sport’s No 1 priority.”

Dr Simon Connell, an expert in contract law and in compensation in the Faculty of Law at the University of Otago, told Stuff in 2020 that the ACC ‘no-fault’ system worked as “a shield” for NZ Rugby in terms of financial claims.





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