A landmark case is underway in the New South Wales Supreme Court which may have significant implications for the National Rugby League and in fact all Australian sporting codes and clubs. Former NSW State of Origin winger James McManus is taking legal action against the Newcastle Knights, alleging the organisation was negligent in the handling of his concussions incurred over the course of his 166 NRL appearances for the Knights.
The matter is listed for a directions hearing in March, and will surely be of interest to other clubs and codes as it may set an Australian precedent for sporting clubs and negligence.
McManus enjoyed a relatively successful career with the Newcastle Knights; however it came to an abrupt end after suffering a number of concussions throughout the 2015 season. McManus withdrew from the remainder of that season, and was forced into premature retirement from the NRL on medical grounds in August 2016.
McManus was subsequently diagnosed by doctors with “minor brain damage” and “scarring on the brain“, the results of which have contributed to numerous other health issues.
The substance of the allegations are unknown as of yet, however they may pertain to an alleged failure by the Newcastle doctors to ensure that McManus was appropriately monitored and assessed after receiving such head injuries – amounting to a breach of the duty of care owed to McManus by the club and same doctors.
Should McManus’ court case proceed, former Knights doctor Peter McGeoch – responsible for game-day concussion protocols – and former coach Rick Stone would be key witnesses.
The NRL may find itself in a position similar to that of the NFL in the United States, which will soon begin paying out nearly $1 billion to retired players following an historic concussion settlement. Following decades of former players being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other serious brain injuries, a settlement was agreed in a class action against the NFL to cover the health care expenses of current and former American football players.
Knights chairman Brian McGuigan conceded the case could have widespread ramifications for rugby league.
“You could contemplate that would be a serious impact for the code and any code really,” McGuigan said. “We showed we are responsible because we stopped his playing.”
If you, or your organisation has any queries pertaining to sports law, negligence or litigation matters, contact us at McLaughlins Lawyers to arrange an initial consult with one of our experienced litigation solicitors to find out how we may assist you.
Author: Zion Saint
Director: Ian Kennedy