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Case Notes: McCracken v Melbourne Storm Rugby League Football Club 2005 NSWSC 107

SC 20071/03
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Jarrod McCracken was a member of the first grade Wests Tigers Rugby League Football Club team in Sydney. Since sustaining serious injury in a tackle during a game against the Melbourne Storm Rugby League Football Club on the 12th May, 2000, he has not played football. He sought damages against the Melbourne Storm as well as the players actually involved in the offending tackle, Stephen Kearney and Marcus Bai.

The tackle in question occurred when Jarrod McCracken was some ten metres from the Melbourne Storm's goal line. According to Judge Hulme, analysis of the video recording of the match clearly showed that, when Melbourne Storm's players, Stephen Kearney and Marcus Bai, tackled Jarrod McCracken thereby upending him, they lifted him to an "unusual" height before intentionally causing him to fall heavily onto the field. As such play was a dangerous and an unnecessary way of putting a halt to his run, the Judge was convinced that they intended to injure Jarrod McCracken. One witness, Mr. Ryan, a former first grade Rugby League coach, agreed that "unreasonably dangerous methods" were used by Stephen Kearney and Marcus Bai. Under the Laws of the Game of Australian Rugby League, such a tackle would be regarded as a "dangerous throw".

Once it was established that Jarrod McCracken's injury was intentional, the limits on damages imposed by the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) did not apply. Section 3(B) states in part:

"The provisions of this Act do not apply to (or in respect of civil liability and awards of damages in those proceedings) as follows:
(a) civil liability in respect of an intentional act that is done with intention to cause injury or death.........".

Therefore, as a consequence of the breach of their duty of care to Jarrod McCracken, Stephen Kearney and Marcus Bai were found liable for their actions. Further, the Melbourne Storm as their employer was also held to be liable. At the time of the decision, the amount of damages awarded was still to be assessed.

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