In a legal first, an amateur rugby player has won a payout of up to £10 million after her opponent flattened her "like a frog" and left her paralysed from the waist down.
The High Court heard that 34-year-old Dani Czernuszka suffered a broken spine in October 2017 after Natasha King "frog-splatted" her in an "illegal" tackle during an amateur league rugby match between the Reading Sirens and Bracknell Ladies teams.
The High Court had previously heard claims from Ms Czernuszka that after the pair clashed during the match in Sonning, near Reading, Ms King had told her she was "going to break me."
The court also heard that Ms King had "exerted her full weight downwards on to the head and back of the claimant in the manner of a "belly flop" such that her full weight pressed down heavily on the claimant's spine. Ms King had not been penalised by the match referee for the tackle.
Acting for Ms Czernuszka previously, Robert Weir KC highlighted the size difference between Ms King and Ms Czernuszka, the court heard. Witnesses to the tackle described it variously as like a "belly-flop" or "like she was frog splatting on her." Mr Justice Spencer ruled that Ms King was liable for the severe injuries Ms Czernuska sustained as a result of the "dangerous" and "illegal" tackle.
Ms Czernuszka received a serious spinal fracture and spinal cord injury, was in hospital for six months after the injury, and was left with no movement in her legs. She is now in a wheelchair.
Lawyers representing Ms Czernuszka said that the compensation, of up to £10 million, will be paid out gradually over time and will be used to help meet her assisted living needs. It will ensure "she receives the financial and rehabilitory support she needs following her spinal cord injury," they added.
Ms Czernuszka, who now plays para ice hockey for Team GB, said that she was, "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". Ms Czernuszka said: "Learning to live with my life-changing injuries has been difficult and something I could not have done without the support of my family and friends.
"Sport has always given me great pleasure in life, and I don't blame the game of rugby for what happened. Ultimately, I feel I was let down by improper and poor behaviour from the opposing player, coaching staff and the referee."
The verdict has set a precedent for sports injury claims in the future.
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