Woman struck in the eye with a cricket ball at local park loses £17k damages claim as judge rules it was obvious a ‘serious’ match was being played
- Phoebe Lewis was struck by cricket ball while walking in Battersea Park, London
- She took Wandsworth Council to court because there were no signs on the path
- Last year she won her law suit following a hearing at Wandsworth County Court
- But a High Court judge has now overruled the decision, in favour of the council
A woman who was struck in the eye with a cricket ball at a local park has lost her £17,000 damages claim.
Phoebe Lewis was struck in the face with a cricket ball as she walked near to a boundary rope during a match in Battersea Park, London.
She successfully sued Wandsworth Council in the county courts, claiming signs should have been erected while the match was being played.
Ms Lewis, a self-confessed cricket fan and non-playing member of Marleybone Cricket Club, also claimed she thought the local cricket game would involve the use of ‘softer balls’.
Phoebe Lewis was struck in the face with a cricket ball as she walked near to a boundary rope during a match in Battersea Park, London. Pictured: A library image of cricket at Battersea Park
Battersea Park has been home to cricket for 150 years, court hears
Battersea Park is a 200-acre (83-hectare) green space in south-west London.
It is situated on the south bank of the River Thames, opposite Chelsea.
The park officially opened in 1858.
Battersea Park is a 200-acre (83-hectare) green space in south-west London
And according to court documents, cricket fields have been laid out in the park since it was opened.
The court saw an 1897 map of the park which shows it as it then was – and how the current layout of the park today has changed very little.
The court heard the path on which the accident occurred is still in the same location as it was in 1897 as was the cricket pitch.
Historic documents show cricket has been played continuously in this place since 1897.
Alongside cricket, Battersea Park has also held football matches, the first of which was held in 1864.
The judge said it was ‘obvious’ a match was being played and rubbished the idea that a ‘reasonable passer-by’ would think the players would be using a soft ball.
In overturning the decision by the county courts, Judge Mr Justice Stewart said: ‘What I frankly fail to understand is how the Recorder [the judge in the case] could envisage that a cricket match played by adult men could be assumed by any reasonable passer-by to be using a soft ball.
‘This would have been particularly so if they were wearing whites and therefore playing what would appear to be a serious match.
‘There is no evidence as to whether the hard ball could have been heard, though it would be surprising given the distances involved if this was not the case.
‘Nevertheless, and in any event, the strong presumption must be that adult men playing a cricket match will be using a proper cricket ball.
‘The finding that the warning should have been that a hard ball was being used about cannot be upheld.’
The initial incident took place in August 2014 and involved amateur players from a league called the Last Man Standing.
Ms Lewis was walking with a friend on a path around eight metres from the boundary of the match at Battersea Park when she heard shouts from cricket players.
As she looked up she was struck by the ball ‘square’ in the eye.
She told the county court: ‘I clutched my face and fell to the floor. The cricketers came over to see if I and my friend were alright.
‘I asked if someone could call an ambulance as if my eyeball had fallen out or been destroyed and then it began to be painful.’
Court papers say Ms Lewis suffered a ‘serious injury’.
She later told the court that she was a ‘regular user’ of the park and that ‘could not deny’ that she knew a pitch was there.
The decision was overturned in the High Court by Judge Mr Justice Stewart (pictured)
But she said that she ‘never thought there were professional-style players using them’.
Ms Lewis said: ‘I was not focused on the cricket at all as I was chatting to my friend, but I can’t deny I might have seen the players.’
She later said she ‘did not see any signs’, adding: ‘I think there ought to have been some form of signage.
‘I did not know that cricket played in a public park was played with a real cricket ball, which is really hard. If there had been a sign I think I would have noticed it.
‘If a sign had warned me of either hard balls or a risk of injury, I would have paid more attention to the game.’
She later took her claim against the council to Wandsworth County Court.
Wandsworth Council disputed her claim, saying the pitch is ‘clearly visible’ from where she was walking, that it was ‘obvious’ a game was being played and that ‘anyone who frequents the park on a reasonably regular basis during the summer months would be aware that cricket is taking place’.
A High Court judge has now overruled her win in the lower courts, according to a judgment, posted online and first reported by The Times
But a Recorder ruled in Ms Lewis’ favour, saying the council did owe a duty of care and had ‘failed’ in that duty because it had allowed pedestrians to walk along the boundary and had ‘failed to warn’ the claimant that a game was in progress.
Last year she was awarded almost £17,000 in damages and an equal sum in costs.
But at the High Court earlier this month Mr Justice Stewart overturned the decision.
He said: ‘I reach the conclusion that the Recorder’s judgment was wrong.
‘He failed to take account of material factors and there was a lack of logic in his analysis of the facts.
‘In the circumstances which obtained, allowing pedestrians to walk along the path when a cricket match was taking place was reasonably safe, the prospects of an accident (albeit nasty if it occurred) being remote.’
MailOnline has contacted Ms Lewis’ legal representatives and Wandsworth Council for a comment.