Just recently, the jury in England gave its verdict in the Hillsborough disaster case, in which some 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives, finding that those guilty for this disaster were the police and the managers of the event but not the team' supporters.  And so, nearly 30 years after the event, the jury cleared the names of those supporters.  Quite by chance, around the time the verdict was given in England, and also around the time of certain events which occurred during a football match between Bnei Sachnin and Maccabi Tel-Aviv, the District Court of Jerusalem handed down its precedential judgment, on the question of liability for injuries suffered at sporting events.

The judgment was handed down with respect to a claim filed by a guard for the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team – Yoav Glitzenstein – who was injured by a firecracker which had been thrown during the match between Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Holon.   This event received extensive media coverage.  The District Court of Jerusalem (His Honour Judge Romnov) decided in the judgment that the Israeli Police and three Hapoel Holon supporters, who were involved in the organization of the arrival of supporters, who brought in and threw the firecracker, should compensate the guard in the amount of NIS 850,000.    The claim against other parties who had been sued – including Hapoel Jerusalem, the Shay Zilverstein security company, the Jerusalem Municipality, Hapoel Holon and the Basketball Association (represented by Adv. Gil Atar of the firm) – was dismissed.

The court decided that the Hapoel Holon supporters, who came to the basketball court (former court) of Hapoel Jerusalem, were allowed to enter using a gate which was not originally meant to be open and at which gate the party which was supposed to carry out a security check (by contrast with the other gates) was the Israeli Police.  The Israeli Police had contended that the security company was responsible to carry out the check but the court rejected this version and found that the Police failed such that supporters were able to enter bringing firecrackers with them.

With respect to the question of the obligations of the teams themselves, the court found that neither the home team nor the away team is liable to compensate the plaintiff.  The court decided that the imposition of an agent's liability on the basketball teams for the interferences of these supporters, by the courts of the Sport Association, does not necessarily lead to the imposition of liability in tort claims in the civil courts.  Regarding the home team, the court found that this team is entitled to rely on the security company and the Israeli Police, who are responsible for the checks. It was further found that the fault lay with the check procedure and not with the venue, and so the claim against the Jerusalem Municipality – the owner of the court - was dismissed.  Likewise, the claim against the Management of the Basketball League and the Basketball Association was dismissed on the basis that they are not at all responsible for the security, and also because it was not proven that there is another way of handling the throwing of firecrackers which could have prevented the incident from happening.  The court also dismissed the argument that there was room to impose contributory negligence on the plaintiff himself.

It is reasonable to assume that this judgment will have an impact on other claims concerning the liability of the Israeli Police at public events where security checks are required.

Reference: CA 2196/08 (Jerusalem District) Glitzenstein v The State of Israel et al (24.4.2016)