Anyone who has studied the law of delict since 1951 is aware of the English case of Bolton v Stone which found that hitting a cricket ball out of a cricket ground is an incidence of the game and did not amount to negligence so that the passer-by injured by the ball could not sue for damages.
The decision has been reaffirmed in November 2020 by the English High Court despite an attempt by a lower court to distinguish the case.
The claimant was walking through Battersea park at the end of a cricket ground when she was struck on the left eye with a cricket ball struck from a game of cricket being played on the pitch. There was a clear view for pedestrians using the path to see the cricket match taking place. It was not reasonable for a passer-by to suggest, as the claimant did, that the adult men playing a cricket match would and should be using a soft ball rather than a hard ball and that there needed to be some special warning of the circumstances.
A batsman hits a ball as hard as possible and the fact that the path was within or outside the boundary would be irrelevant. The prospect of the ball crossing the boundary was an obvious one. The risk of balls being hit towards the path was so evident to any passer-by that any prior warning to passers-by would have been unnecessary and irrelevant.
Signage about cricket or other sports being played in open areas of the park was not necessary because it is quite obvious when games are in progress as passers-by approach them. Allowing pedestrians to walk along the path when a cricket match was taking place was reasonably safe and the prospects of an accident (albeit nasty if it occurred) was remote therefore there was no liability.
The case is Lewis v Wandsworth London Borough Council.