A compulsive gambler who lost around GBP 2 million in a disastrous five-month betting spree today appealed against a ruling that threw out his claim for compensation and damages from bookmaker William Hill.
Graham Calvert, 28, a greyhound trainer from Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne and Wear, had argued at the High Court in February that the company had failed in its “duty of care” towards him by allowing him to carry on betting and even to open a credit account after he had asked it to stop taking his money under its “self-exclusion” policy.
Simon Browne-Wilkinson QC, representing Mr Calvert, told a panel of three judges at the Court of Appeal today that on the facts found by the High Court judge his client should have won.
Mr Justice Briggs had ruled that although a bookmaker was not liable in negligence over the gambling losses of a customer with a problem, a bookmaker who had undertaken to prohibit such a customer for a period had a duty to take reasonable care to enforce the prohibition.
But Mr Browne-Wilkinson said the judge was wrong to dismiss Mr Calvert’s case on the grounds that his pathological gambling would still have led to his financial ruin and so William Hill did not cause him any financial or other loss.
“The judge accepted that the respondent [William Hill] owed a duty of care to the claimant following the self-exclusion policy and that the respondent breached that duty of care by allowing telephone betting.
“He also found that but for that breach, losses sustained by the claimant of nearly GBP 2 million would not have been sustained.
“We say that if the judge had applied the correct principles of law, the findings were such, subject to the question of contributory negligence, to establish that my client’s claim succeeded.”
He said the judge’s analysis as to what would have happened if the losses had not been made was “misconceived and legally irrelevant”.
The case is being followed by bookies up and down the land who feared that a successful claim would open the floodgate to similar actions from out-of-pocket punters.
Mr Calvert sued William Hill after he said that he had lost not only money but also his wife, health and livelihood.