Albion lose claim against surgeon over Appleton

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West Bromwich Albion yesterday lost their multi-million pound claim against a surgeon who they alleged was negligent and ended the career of their midfielder Michael Appleton. Three judges at the Court of Appeal agreed the surgeon, Medhat Mohamed El-Safty, owed no duty of care to the Championship club.

Albion signed Appleton from Preston for £750,000 during the 2000-01 season, and he agreed a three-and-a-half-year contract. In November 2001, he suffered a knee injury and the club referred him to Mr El-Safty, an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in sports injuries.

He diagnosed an injury to Appleton's right posterior cruciate ligament and recommended reconstructive surgery. It was agreed this was negligent advice and, if the injury had been allowed to heal without surgery, Appleton would have been fit in about four months.

Lord Justice Rix said in his ruling that Albion claimed damages for the loss of the value of Appleton's contract and the cost of replacing him. But he said the club did not have a contract with the surgeon nor could they claim against him for their loss. Appleton, who has not been able to play professionally since, is suing for his own losses. The judges dismissed an appeal by the club against a High Court ruling last year that the surgeon had no contractual duty to Albion.

Elsewhere, a ransom note demanding £15,000 for the return of the stolen Jules Rimet World Cup trophy is to be sold at auction. The letter, which was sent to the Chelsea and FA chairman Joe Mears in 1966, will be sold at Bonhams' Sporting Memorabilia sale in Chester on October 18. In the letter the author, calling himself Jackson, threatened to melt the trophy if he was not sent £15,000 in £5 and £1 notes.

It reads: "Dear Joe Kno [sic] no doubt you view with very much concern the loss of the world cup... To me it is only so much scrap gold. If I don't hear from you by Thursday or Friday at the latest I assume it's one for the POT."

On police advice, Mears agreed to the demand and an undercover policeman met "Jackson" in Battersea Park, London, with a suitcase full of newspapers covered with £5 notes. Jackson, who was actually called Edward Betchley, was being questioned when the trophy was discovered in a hedge by a dog called Pickles.