Why Alex has the right to sue

Why Alex McKinnon has the right to sue | opinion


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OPINION: Face it, former Knights player Alex McKinnon was tragically injured in a workplace accident.

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The news broke on Monday morning. The former Knights player Alex McKinnon, who has been left in a wheelchair potentially for life because of an illegal tackle on him in 2014, has reportedly launched legal proceedings against the NRL and the player, Jordan McLean, who was the tackler.

The vitriol sent McKinnon's way since has to be seen to be believed. On social media, on talkback, the assertion is that, as expressed by one of the Twitterati: "Absolute disgrace from @mckinnon92. NRL bent over backwards to ensure his well-being going forward. Then he does this. Grub."

Union defends Alex’s legal claim

Others say, if you can believe it, the injury was his fault anyway, as he ducked his head in the tackle.

Get it?

McKinnon is not playing the game. He is turning his back on his mates. He hasn't let what happened on the field, stay on the field. He is not being a big boy about the whole thing, not taking his lumps like everyone else. He is not treating the NRL like a friend, a group of mates, but like, well, like a multi-billion-dollar industry that can well afford to compensate him beyond their promised "job for life" but has not yet done so.

To all those who so bitterly criticise McKinnon, can you get a bloody grip? And then give yourselves an uppercut?

You have not the first clue how difficult his circumstances are, what the financial drain on him is, just what his needs for him and his fine partner, Teigan, are, just what his daily life is like.

The whole notion that whatever happens on the field has no place in the courts has been blown away in the past three decades. In 1985, the Steve Rogers v Mark Bugden case established that while players accept risks that go with the game when it is played within the rules, they really can successfully sue when sustaining damage for actions that are well outside those rules – as when Bugden broke Rogers' jaw.

I brought that up after the tragic tackle on McKinnon, and – once the NRL judiciary decided that the tackle was indeed outside the rules –  posed the question: "With that ruling, the question begs: would a court of law decide that Jordan McLean is liable for the damages done, and that McKinnon could sue for them?

In the case of Rogers v Bugden, the court decided that, in 1990 dollars, a broken jaw was worth $68,154, and Canterbury had to pay, as they were ruled vicariously liable, as the employer of Bugden. Just what would quadriplegia be worth in damages in modern dollars?"

When the issue of possibly suing first arose, the reaction was equally, stunningly vitriolic, to McKinnon, including one online comment that  "McKinnon should give back every cent raised for him in the Rise For Alex campaign".

I stand by my point at the time. In no way is McKinnon disrespecting donors by moving beyond what was given to him by charity and asking for what might be his by right!

As to the NRL's vaunted "job for life", really? There is no contract, no guarantee. It was just part of the charitable sentiment at the time. Richard Freedman put it well on Sky at the time, that with that promise and a couple of dollars the fallen player could buy a cup of coffee. Yes, at the moment McKinnon is working for the Knights, which is owned by the NRL, but he most certainly has no guarantee on that job.

McKinnon was tragically injured in a workplace accident, and just about every other worker in a workplace accident across our brown and pleasant land would be entitled to pursue their legal rights, to determine whether there is culpability on the part of the employer or fellow employee in causing the damage.

So why the hell can't McKinnon?

Because it's just a game, and that is what goes with the game?

No, it ain't. It is an industry generating billions of dollars in profits.

Get off the bloke's case.

  • This article first appeared on pni
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