A woman who was left with permanent brain damage after nearly drowning during a school swimming lesson in 2000 has won the right to pursue compensation against her local education authority.
Now an adult, Annie Woodland continues to live with her family as her injuries mean she cannot look after herself.
Why has the ruling changed?
The case is particularly significant as it marks the end of a long struggle for the right to take the case to the high court. On two previous occasions, her family were barred from making their claim, most recently in 2012, but a supreme court ruling has overturned that decision.
Lord Sumption’s findings stated: “It is wholly reasonable that a school should be answerable for the performance of part of its own educational function.”
The lesson in question was contracted out by Essex county council to a third party, with swimming a compulsory activity under the national curriculum. The Woodland family are seeking to show that the council failed in its “non-delegable duty of care.”
Neither the teacher nor the lifeguard involved in the incident were employed directly by the council.
If successful, it will signal a change in the approach to cases involving children, particularly in the case of school activities.
What is non-delegable duty of care?
Lawyers representing Annie have argued that because those leading the swimming lesson were given that responsibility by the council, the council itself was “in loco parentis”. They suggest that this means it is guilty of negligence and must therefore be held responsible for Annie’s injuries.
Previous claims had been knocked back as the courts felt imposing a non-delegable duty of care on these situations could mean a lower quality experience for pupils, as local authorities could shy away from providing these services.
While the latest ruling certainly gives hope to this family, there is still the matter of presenting their case to the high court. The outcome could have ramifications across a broad range of future cases involving those under 18.
Ask Croftons for help and advice
Even prior to this case, claims involving children have always been a matter that should be treated with care and caution.
Whether a child chooses to make a claim once they reach their 18th birthday, or their family makes a claim on their behalf, Croftons Solicitors will deal with the matter sensitively and efficiently.
Whatever the nature of the accident, we will always strive to secure the maximum compensation for any injury sustained that was not your fault. Call us free on 0800 2800 094 for more information.