Football agent successfully sues for loss of chance

The Court of Appeal has reversed a decision dismissing a claim against the defendant football agents for want of proof of causation. The claimant, also a football agent, had issued proceedings against the defendants for, among other things, inducing a professional football player to breach his oral contract with the claimant.

The claimant alleged that the defendants had excluded him from a transfer deal that he had arranged for the player and had deprived the claimant from the opportunity to receive a transfer fee. The court held that, properly analysed, the claim was for loss of a chance. The claimant was entitled to an award of damages against the defendants for loss of a chance to earn a fee under a written agency agreement with the player. The court decided not to interfere with the judge’s finding that, on the facts, the player would not have entered into a written contract with the claimant at the end of the transfer process. In the circumstances, the effect of the loss of chance approach was that the chance of the player signing a contract with the claimant fell to be evaluated as no higher than 50%.

The court remitted the matter to the judge for the purpose of assessing the relevant percentage likelihood. It also held that a settlement which the claimant had reached with the player relating to the player’s breach of contract did not prevent the claimant from pursuing the defendants. Although the settlement agreement had been drafted in wide terms, it did not make “absolutely clear” that in settling with the player, the claimant was foregoing his right to recover his remaining loss.

The decision provides a good example of the application of the complex loss of a chance principle. It would appear that at first instance issues of causation and assessment were confused. The finding that the player would not have entered into a written contract with the claimant was only relevant to the assessment of damages and not to the issue of liability. The practical significance of this being that although ultimately the claimant may only receive nominal damages from the defendants’ tort, he is unlikely to be liable for their costs, which in this case may be substantial. (McGill v The Sports and Entertainment Media Group and others [2016] EWCA Civ 1063.)

Source: Practical Law.