School not liable for injury to child

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A recent Court of Appeal decision has overruled a successful County Court judgment against the Council with reference to an accident which occurred at St Andrew's School in Nuthurst.

The accident involved two brothers who became involved in a scuffle on the school premises.  One intended to punch the other, missed, and punched the underside of a metal wall-mounted water fountain instead.  He was awarded £3215 by the County Court Judge for the injury sustained to his thumb.

He is now required to return his compensation, together with the costs of the appeal.

The Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 is the relevant stature for such claims and section 2 of the Act requires that reasonable steps be taken to ensure that visitors to the premises are reasonably safe.  The word "reasonable" is open to interpretation.  

In the case of children one has to be more careful and take into consideration that they are not adults and will behave accordingly. The Court of Appeal held that it was not possible for the school to protect children from harm in all circumstances. The fountain was indeed reasonably safe and the school had taken reasonable steps to safeguard its pupils. 

This case acts as a stark reminder that we do not live in a risk adverse society as is often suggested by the press and by the public.  Accidents happen and are not always someone's fault.  Common sense should prevail and we should remember that we all have a duty to take care. 

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