Council wins appeal over compensation claim

Shelf United (blue) v Wadsworth United (green) in the Halifax Saturday League at Shelf Hall Park, Shelf. Paul Andrew for Shelf and Eddie Harvey for Wadsworth.
Shelf United (blue) v Wadsworth United (green) in the Halifax Saturday League at Shelf Hall Park, Shelf. Paul Andrew for Shelf and Eddie Harvey for Wadsworth.
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Calderdale Council has successfully appealed against a compensation claim which could have had significant implications for all local authorities providing and maintaining public playing fields.

Paul Zoledziejewski brought a claim against the council following a football injury he sustained on the pitch at Shelf Hall Park.

The court heard that Mr Zoledziejewski suffered severe damage to knee ligaments when he made a sharp turn and his right foot stuck in a rut in the pitch.

The case was heard at Dewsbury County Court in March 2011 where a judge found in favour of the claimant and ordered the council to pay £22,500 in damages, along with the claimant’s legal costs of £45,000

But the council was given permission to appeal against that ruling by London Appeal Court judge, Lord Justice Gross, because of the potential considerable ramifications, particularly for local authorities.

The council’s appeal was heard in the Court of Appeal on February 29 and the decision was that the original Order against the Council be set aside, judgement be made in favour of the defendant (the council) and the claimant should pay the defendant’s costs of £15,000.

The Court of Appeal therefore reversed the decision for the council to pay damages to the claimant and his legal fees.

The council’s community services director Robin Tuddenham said the decision was welcome because it clarified local authorities’ responsibilities for maintaining public playing fields.

“This decision had potentially enormous implications.

“Had the council been unsuccessful in its appeal, the decision would have placed an enormous risk, not just on Calderdale Council, but also on other local authorities and providers of public facilities where sports are played.

“It would almost certainly have resulted in councils being able to provide and maintain fewer public open spaces where people can enjoy a variety of sporting activities,” he said.