Categories: Australia

Rugby player who now uses wheelchair sues opponent claiming scrum ‘belly flop’ left her paralysed

A rugby player who is paralyzed after a match sues her opponent who she believes fell on her stomach in a scrum, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the women’s game.

Dani Watts, 34, spent six months in hospital and now uses a wheelchair after sustaining the life-changing injuries during an amateur competition in October 2017.

The mother-of-two claims that Natasha King, one of her rivals in the match who she says is “much heavier” than she is, caused the injury after tackling her illegally.

She is now suing Ms King before the Supreme Court for massive damages, which could amount to millions of pounds.

Dani Watts, 34, spent six months in hospital and now uses a wheelchair after sustaining the life-changing injury during an amateur game in October 2017

Personal trainer Miss Watts suffers from severe pain and is unable to move her legs after her spine was fractured and spinal cord injured.

She suffered her catastrophic injuries in the closing moments of a match between her side, Reading’s Redingensians RFC, and their Berkshire-based rivals Bracknell Ladies.

The sportswoman now plays para ice hockey for Team GB.

Mrs Watts’ attorney Robert Weir KC said: ‘The nature of the tackle and its execution was not reasonable or lawful.

“Mrs. King showed a reckless disregard for Miss Watts’ safety.”

The incident occurred after flanker Miss Watts legally tackled Mrs. King before waiting in a crouched position to receive the ball from the ruck.

Ms. King, who is said to have played with “aggressive physicality,” then attacked her, according to Ms Watts, “with her full weight down on her head and back” and fractured her spine.

Mr Weir said that Ms King did not act in a split second but had had enough time to assess whether and how Ms Watts should be dealt with.

“She made no attempt to play the ball or lawfully deal with the Plaintiff.

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“She came upon Miss Watts with disproportionate force when she knew or should have known that, because of her relatively much heavier weight and stature, she would likely injure the Plaintiff in the manner she did.”

Ms King, from Bracknell, insists her tackle was within the rules of the game and she did nothing wrong.

Miss Watts is suing Natasha King (pictured) for potentially millions of pounds

Attorney Geoffrey Brown, who represents her, said in her written defense to the claim: “It was a rugby injury, caused by the risks inherent in playing the game.”

“The Plaintiff has implicitly accepted the risk of injury by entering the competition, which led to her injury.

“Tackling her is not fairly or accurately described as being in a belly flap style or as being inappropriate in some way,” he says.

“The impact between the players was not particularly – and certainly not unreasonably – powerful.

“It was not of a nature to be expected to cause any significant harm to the plaintiff, let alone that remotely serious.”

Ms. King also denies being offside – on the wrong side of the game – when she made the tackle.

Her lawyer said her heavier weight, like that of others on the field, “did not impose a higher duty of care.”

“There was nothing wrong with the physical contact used to make the tackle or the tackling technique of the first defendant,” he added.

The case, believed to be the first of its kind in the women’s game, reached the Supreme Court last week for a pre-trial hearing and will return at a later date for a full trial of Miss Watts’ claim.

The exact amount being charged is not known, but cases that left young people paralyzed have resulted in payouts of millions of pounds.


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