Rugby player flattened ‘like a frog’ and left paralysed awarded £10m payout

Dani Czernuszka, 34, broke her spine after Natasha King 'frog-splatted' her in an 'illegal' tackle
Dani Czernuszka, 34, broke her spine after Natasha King ‘frog-splatted’ her in an ‘illegal’ tackle

An amateur rugby player left paralysed from the waist down after her opponent flattened her “like a frog” has won a payout of up to £10 million in a legal first.

Dani Czernuszka, 34, broke her spine after Natasha King “frog-splatted” her in an “illegal” tackle in an amateur league rugby match between her team, Reading Sirens, and Bracknell Ladies in Oct 2017.

In a legal first for the ladies’ amateur rugby game, Mr Justice Spencer ruled that Ms King was liable for the severe spinal fracture and spinal cord injury Mrs Czernuska sustained as a result of the “dangerous” and “illegal” tackle.

The rugby tackle that left Dani Czernuszka paralysed from the waist down - Champion News
The rugby tackle that left Dani Czernuszka paralysed from the waist down – Champion News

The High Court was previously told of claims from Mrs Czernuszka that Ms King had told her she was “going to break me” after the pair clashed during the match in Sonning, near Reading.

The court was also told that Ms King, who had not been penalised by the match referee for the tackle, had “exerted her full weight downwards onto 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”.

Natasha King's tackle was described as a 'belly-flop' - Champion News
Natasha King’s tackle was described as a ‘belly-flop’ – Champion News

Witnesses to the tackle described it variously as like a “belly-flop” or “like she was frog splatting on her”, the court was told.

Robert Weir KC, acting for Mrs Czernuszka previously, also highlighted the size difference between Ms King and his client.

Mrs Czernuszka, who now plays para ice hockey for Team GB, was hospitalised for six months after the injury. She was left with no movement in her legs and was dependent on a wheelchair. The verdict has set a precedent for sports injury claims in the future.

Dani Czernuszka outside London's High Court earlier this month for a previous hearing - Champion News
Dani Czernuszka outside London’s High Court earlier this month for a previous hearing – Champion News

On Thursday, Mrs Czernuszka said 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”.

She added: “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 close friends.

“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.

“With the unparalleled support of my legal team, 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.”

Damian Horan, legal director at Aspire Law, who represented Mrs Czernuszka in the case, said it was “a timely reminder that a player’s actions on the pitch never stay on the pitch and can have catastrophic consequences”.

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