Introduction Of Legal Absurdity Into School Sports
'School sports legal shock' The Courier-Mail 23/04/2012

A 13-YEAR-OLD schoolgirl is being sued by a classmate over a tennis court mishap at one of Queensland's top private schools in the latest blow to playground fun.

The legal claim, over a bruised eye, has raised concerns that "litigation-crazy" parents could threaten the future of school sport by forcing up insurance costs. It may also force parents to take out third-party accident insurance for their children.

Several Queensland schools have already banned activities including tiggy, red rover and cartwheels because of injury fears. The legal stoush has embroiled the daughters of a leading Gold Coast cardiologist and an architect, and the prestigious Somerset College.

Cardiologist Guy Wright-Smith said he was "gobsmacked" to receive the damages claim, addressed to his 13-year-old daughter Julia, at his rooms on Friday. The claim alleges Julia had hit classmate Finley Enright-Burns in the eye with a tennis ball during a tennis lesson at the Mudgeeraba school last October. It alleges Julia was "smashing" balls back to Finley on the baseline when the incident happened. Finley did not go to hospital but is alleged to have suffered an eye injury which needed medical treatment.

The claim, filed on behalf of Finley by her architect father Paul Burns, also names Somerset College and its Jay Deacon's Tennis School as defendants.

"It's bizarre ... beyond belief," Dr Wright-Smith told The Courier-Mail yesterday.

The claim says the tennis school failed to provide adequate supervision or protective eye-wear and allowed Julia and Finley to stand too close together — and Julia to hit two balls at once. Somerset College also breached its duty of care, the claim alleges.

Damages have not been specified but the Wright-Smiths are required to respond within 30 days.

"I couldn't believe it when I opened this legal letter addressed to my 13-year-old daughter," Dr Wright-Smith said yesterday.

Dr Wright-Smith said Julia and Finley were friends and the claim had come "out of the blue. I called my lawyer immediately," he said.

Lawyer Bill Potts, who is not acting for the Wright-Smiths, said such lawsuits threatened the future of school sport by forcing up insurance costs.

"While the girl's injuries are regrettable, there is also a sense with claims like this that we've gone too far and are becoming a litigious-crazy society like the US," he said. "We can't wrap our kids in cotton wool. Are they going to start stopping kids from climbing trees and kicking balls? These great Australian pastimes are under threat if claims like this are successful."

Mr Potts said the High Court had recently acted to wind back "foolish claims".

"The High Court has said that people have to take greater responsibility for their own actions," he said. "There has been a culture of blame rather than common acceptance that people just have to be careful."