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.

Police v Licciardello (2007) H&FLR 2015-1

Police v Chas Licciardello (2007) H&FLR 2015-1

Sutherland Local Court (New South Wales)

c. 23 January 2007

Coram: Keogh M.

Appearing for the Prosecution: Not known
Appearing for the Defendant: Stephen Russell (instructors not identified)

Catchwords: New South Wales – criminal law – rugby – supporters – satire – offensive behaviour at stadium – reasonable person

Facts: The defendant was a television satirist.  On 14 July 2006 he attended at the Jubilee Stadium prior to a rugby match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the St George-Illawarra Dragons. In order to parody Bulldogs supporters’ reputation for violence, he dressed in the team colours and offered to sell imitation knuckledusters and flares, a rubber knife, balaclavas and boxes labelled “Rohypnol” as “Official Bulldogs Merchandise”.  The incident was filmed with the intention of later screening it on television.  The spectators present generally took the incident in good spirit, but a number of fans became aggressive (1), prompting police to intervene and charge the defendant with offensive behaviour.

The Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW), §4 provides that –

(1) A person must not conduct himself or herself in an offensive manner in or near, or within view or hearing from, a public place or a school.
Maximum penalty: 6 penalty units or imprisonment for 3 months.

(2) A person does not conduct himself or herself in an offensive manner as referred to in subsection (1) merely by using offensive language.

(3) It is a sufficient defence to a prosecution for an offence under this section if the defendant satisfies the court that the defendant had a reasonable excuse for conducting himself or herself in the manner alleged in the information for the offence.

The video of the incident was viewed by the Court.

Held: Dismissing the charge, that –

1. The crowd’s response was relevant in considering the charge.  Her Worship observed that “I can’t ignore the fact that overwhelmingly the crowd responded to the accused’s conduct as if it were a joke, which it was – although it may not have been a joke to everyone’s liking”.

2. That one group of people did not appreciate the humour involved and were insulted did not necessarily prove that the conduct was offensive.  Most people at the incident were good natured and shared the joke, and reasonable people would not have been offended.

An application for the police to pay the defendant’s costs was refused.

Judgment

No written judgment is available.  This report has been prepared based on the account in the Herald Sun (Melbourne), 24 January 2007, at p.7.

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(1) Suggesting a failure to appreciate irony!