Thursday 17 January 2019

Insurance firm told to pay legal costs of footballer knocked unconscious by unidentified opponent

(stock picture)
(stock picture)

Tim Healy

AN INSURANCE company must pay the legal costs of an amateur footballer who sued after an unidentified substitute from the opposing team allegedly ran on to the pitch and punched him unconscious.

The High Court ruled bank official David Sutton (42) was entitled to costs of bringing his case after Royal and Sun Alliance took 15 months to say it would not be indemnifying the club whose substitute was the alleged assailant.

Mr Sutton, Gainsborough Green, Malahide, Co Dublin, sued Kinsgsood FC, Tallaght, Dublin.

Mr Sutton was playing against Kingswood for Malahide FC at the Cemetery Grounds in Ballymount, Dublin, when the alleged incident occurred on December 7, 2013.

Mr Sutton claimed Kingswood, through its agents and managers, allowed a substitute "who had a violent propensity" on to the field.   The sub came up behind Mr Sutton and struck him in the face, knocking him unconscious to the ground, it was claimed.

He also claimed Kingswood failed to exercise control over its players and failed to identify the attacker or immediately report the incident to the Leinster Senior Football League.

Mr Sutton initially brought proceedings in October 2016 the club and later sought to join Royal and Sun Alliance as a co-defendant.

The insurer later said the policy did not indemnify the club for the alleged incident.

On Monday, Mr Sutton's counsel, Jonathan Kilfeather, asked Mr Justice Seamus Noonan to award his client legal costs against Royal and Sun Alliance.  An investigation was carried out into the incident and the upshot of it was that nobody on the defendant's team was able to identify the sub, counsel said.

Mr Kilfeather said there was case law to support his argument that he was entitled to costs in circumstances where his client was informed the club was insured but it later transpired there was no cover for this incident.

Francis Martin BL, for Royal and Sun Alliance, said it would be "wholly unfair" to grant costs given the case had not fully progressed and it was still open to Mr Sutton to continue to sue the club. 

The case had only got to the stage of particulars of the incident being sought from the Sutton side.  and there was no discovery of documents and defence had not even been entered, counsel said.

Mr Justice Noonan said it was 15 months after proceedings were brought that the insurer said it was not going to indemnify. He agreed there was case law to say Mr Sutton was entitled to his costs, he said.

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