Poulos v Samoa Rugby Union Inc. (2011) H&FLR 2015-28

Peter Poulos v Samoa Rugby Union Incorporated (2011) H&FLR 2015-28

Supreme Court of Samoa

8 August 2011

Coram: Slicer J

Appearing for the Plaintiff: L Tamati and A Su’a (instructors not identified)
Appearing for the Defendant: S Leung Wai (instructors not identified)

Catchwords: Samoa – rugby – professional athlete – selection team – injury – assurance – ‘looked after’.

Facts: The plaintiff was a professional rugby player. On 5 April 2006 he took part in a practice match between a local club and a side made up of players (including himself) being considered for selection in the Samoan national side.  During a maul he suffered a neck injury as a result of fair play.  The injury was expected to end his playing career.

The Court accepted that the plaintiff entered upon the selection process having been assured that the defendant would “look after him” in relation to medical treatment and associated costs (but not future loss of income) in the event of injury.  In the event he was provided with little or no assistance by the defendant and brought proceedings against it on the basis that it had tortiously or in breach of contract failed to honour its assurance, including by failing to take out suitable insurance.

Held: Upholding the claim in part, that –

1. It was indisputable that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care while he was taking part in the selection process.  The real issue was the standard of care to be observed, which would be determined by what was reasonable in the circumstances as regards taking out insurance.  In this case, the defendant was entitled to rely on the standard set by the International Rugby Board which did not require insurance to be taken out over players in the selection process.

Bolton v Stone [1951] AC 850; Wyong Shire Council v Shirt (1980) 146 CLR 552; and Burnie Port Authority v General Jones Pty Ltd (1994) 179 CLR 520, followed.

2. It was not appropriate for the courts to imply a requirement to take out insurance into a contract involving a sports injury

Reid v Rush and Tompkins Group Plc [1990] 1 WLR 212, followed.

3. The general agreement that the defendant would look after the plaintiff was binding on it, despite the defendant not being obliged to take out insurance to this effect.  The defendant had breached this commitment by doing little or nothing to assist the plaintiff following his injury.  In the circumstances compensation was payable and damages were assessed.

Judgment

The Court’s judgment is available here.