Supreme Court hands down judgement against Essex County Council

Posted by Malcolm Johnson on

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The United Kingdom Supreme Court has just handed down judgment in a landmark case against Essex County Council.

The Lords held unanimously that a local authority could be liable for serious brain injuries sustained by a child in a swimming pool, even though that child was under the direct care of someone else, in this case a swimming teacher and lifeguard, who were employed by someone else.

One of the law lords, Lord Sumption said in his judgment:-

"In my opinion.....the education authority assumed a duty to ensure that the Appellant's swimming lessons were carefully conducted and supervised, by whomever they might get to perform these functions. The Appellant was entrusted to the school for certain essential purposes, which included teaching and supervision. The swimming lessons were an integral part of the school's teaching function."

Malcolm Johnson of BL Claims Solicitors commented:-

"This is a truly dramatic development in the law for local authorities. Previously a person injured by the negligence of an independent contractor, who was hired out by a local authority to look after children, might well have no compensation claim. The significance of this change in the law is that local authorities may now be directly liable for abuse perpetrated made by foster carers, even though those carers are often described as "independent" of the local authority."

Key action point:

  • The decision may be indicative of the direction in which the Courts are moving and could have significant implications for charities, schools, churches, and diocesan authorities that provide care and support for children and adults. 

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About the Author

Malcolm is an Senior Associate in our London office, with nearly twenty years' experience.

Malcolm Johnson
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