Rugby: English amateur player wins $19 million in damages after being paralysed in illegal tackle

Rugby generic.
Rugby generic. Photo credit: Getty Images

An English women's amateur rugby player left paralysed for life following an illegal tackle during a match won High Court damages of more than 10 million pounds (NZ$19 million) in a legal first.

Dani Czernuszka, 34, was paralysed from the waist down playing for Reading Sirens in a league match against Bracknell Ladies in October 2017, after opponent Natasha King exerted full weight to her head and back when she was bent over waiting to receive the ball.

The judge ruled that King was liable for the severe spinal injuries Czernuszka sustained as a result of the "dangerous" and "illegal" tackle, a verdict which sets a precedent for sporting injury claims.

"I am grateful for today's ruling and to finally put to bed all of the untruths and fabrications surrounding what happened during the game that day," Czernuszka said.

"Sport has always given me great pleasure in life, and I don't blame the game of rugby for what happened that day. Ultimately, I feel I was let down by improper and poor behaviour from the opposing player, coaching staff and the referee."

The Court heard that King was not penalised by the match referee.

"I hope I can use my injury and the outcome of today's trial to raise awareness of the dangerous lines that shouldn't be crossed when playing sport - no matter the level," added Czernuszka, who now plays para ice hockey for Team Great Britain.

Czernuszka was hospitalised for six months after the injury and faces a lifetime in a wheelchair.

The 10 million pounds compensation accounts for the lifelong cost of Czernuszka's disability and will be paid by the Bracknell club's insurer, said a spokesperson for the law firm representing Czernuszka.

"This case is a timely reminder that a player's actions on the pitch never stay on the pitch and can have catastrophic consequences," said lawyer Damian Horan, who represented Czernuszka during the case.