A rugby player who was paralyzed from the waist down after a “reckless” tackle has won her lawsuit against the opposing player who made the “red mist” challenge.
In October 2017, Dani Czernuszka suffered a spinal fracture during an amateur league rugby match that forced her to use a wheelchair.
Czernuszka, who was 28 at the time, took legal action against Natasha King, who she claimed dangerously accosted her during the game and was responsible for her injuries.
On Thursday, Judge Spencer ruled in Czernuszka’s favor, finding that King was responsible for the unintentional injuries she had caused.
The judge found that during the Reading Sirens v Bracknell Ladies match, King “pounced” on Czernuszka when the last player was bent over waiting to receive the ball.
“She pushed the claimant backwards and, more importantly, downwards, using all her weight and strength to crush him in an obviously dangerous maneuver likely to cause injury,” the judge said.
After a high court trial, Spencer found that King and other members of Bracknell’s squad had played “inappropriately aggressive and intimidating” and that she had become “increasingly frustrated” as the game progressed.
He also said that King was “looking for an opportunity to get revenge on the claimant”.
“Red haze metaphorically descended over the defendant’s eyes,” he said, adding that King had been injured during an earlier attempt to attack Czernuszka.
The judge said: “Although it was a league match, the nature of the league being developed meant that the players were still learning the game and it should have been played in that spirit: players had a duty to be mindful of each other and play with understanding that fun and learning were the main goals, not winning.”
Spencer said that whether Czernuszka had the ball at the time of the tackle was “irrelevant” to King. He said: “At that time, she was not trying to play within the laws of the game, but to demand retribution from the claimant.”
He concluded: “I don’t think the defendant intended to harm the plaintiff, in fact this is not alleged against her.
“I think, however, that the ‘tackle’ was carried out with reckless disregard for the plaintiff’s safety in a manner that could have caused injury and that the defendant was so angry by this point that he turned a blind eye to the risk she was subjecting the plaintiff to .
After the trial, Czernuszka said: “I am grateful for today’s decision and for finally eliminating all untruths and fabrications surrounding what happened during the game that day.
“Learning to live with my life-changing injuries was difficult and something I could not have done without the support of my family and close friends.
“Sport has always given me a lot of pleasure in life, and I don’t blame the rugby game for what happened that day. At the end of the day, I feel that I was let down by the inappropriate and bad behavior of the opposing player, the coaching staff and the referee.”