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The legal implications of Luis Suarez biting incident

Wed 25th Jun 2014 | Legal

Uruguay's Luis Suarez faces a lengthy ban that would force him to miss the rest of the World Cup if found guilty of biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini.

Fifa, football's governing body, has opened disciplinary proceedings against the striker following Uruguay's 1-0 group win on Tuesday.

Chiellini claimed Suarez bit him on the left shoulder, but Suarez said the defender "bumped" into him.

Suarez, 27, could be banned for up to 24 matches or two years.

Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez took no action following the incident, but Fifa can still punish Suarez.

Anthony Meagher at Thomas Eggar LLP commented from a personal injury perspective: “The incident which occurred during the Italy v Uruguay match on 24th June 2014 was in most people’s eyes, unacceptable.

“It is likely that Luis Suarez will face investigation and possibly a ban from football’s governing body FIFA, as well as a possible suspension from the Uruguayan FA.

“But should that be the end of it?

“If this incident had occurred on a football field in England or Wales, the law would entitle Giorgio Chiellini to bring a number of actions in Tort against Luis Suarez.

“Despite the bite being a criminal act, it was also a trespass to the person in the form of battery. Since the tort of trespass to the person is actionable per se, Mr Chiellini would not have to prove damage to succeed in this action.

“But was there damage? Indeed it looks like there was. A bite mark appears to be visible on the shoulder of the Italian Defender and this would allow him to bring a claim for Personal Injury, Loss and Damage arising out of this incident. In reality, the extent of the injury looks to be relatively minor, so the damages for the injuries may not reach the £1,000.01 threshold to enable recovery of Mr Chiellini’s legal costs, but in theory he has a good claim.

“The Claim would likely be brought against Mr Suarez himself, as he not only committed the act, which would be argued as being negligent, dangerous or reckless, but also as a high net worth individual, he would have the funds to satisfy any judgment against him.

“In the alternative, an interesting point of discussion would be whether any such claim could be brought against the Uruguayan FA on the basis that Mr Suarez is an employee and as such they would in ordinary circumstances be vicariously liable for his actions.

“Of course this would open the discussion as to whether he was in fact acting in the course of his employment, as the UFA would surely argue that he was acting “on a frolic of his own” and outside of the rules of the game which he is employed to play.

“The counter argument would be that the act was so closely linked to his employment and his participation in the sporting event that he would be deemed to be acting in the course of his employment. Where would one draw the line? A foul is a foul for the purposes of the game, but when this is an intentional act it could become a trespass and a battery.

“On English soil, Mr Chiellini would be able to bring an alternative claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, a government body set up to compensate victims of violent crime. This bite was clearly a “crime of violence, resulting in Personal Injury”. So would the claim be made through this body? Is biting an opponent a negligent act committed in the course of the game, or a crime of violence committed on a frolic of Mr Suarez’s own? A late challenge, as was the negligent act in Condon v Basi [1985] was deemed to be negligence, but this was an intentional act and an incident off the ball.

“Whatever the outcome of FIFA’s investigation into Mr Suarez, he could face further civil and even criminal action against him. Over to Mr Chiellini’s lawyers to establish which country’s law would have the jurisdiction.”

Image: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Posted by: Kev Howland 

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