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Reasonable safety of school visitors

(A CHILD BY HIS LITIGATION FRIEND ANNETTE PIERCE) (2013)

WEST SUSSEX COUNTY COUNCIL v LEWIS PIERCE (A CHILD BY HIS LITIGATION FRIEND ANNETTE PIERCE) (2013)

[2013] EWCA Civ 1230

CA (Civ Div) (Lord Dyson (MR), McFarlane LJ Sharp LJ) 16/10/2013

A school was not under a duty to safeguard children from harm under all circumstances. A judge considering liability for a cut sustained by a child when he accidentally punched a metal water fountain should have considered under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 s.2 whether, as a matter of objective fact, visitors to the school were reasonably safe in using the premises, including the water fountain, bearing in mind that children did not behave like adults.

The appellant local authority appealed against a decision that it was liable for an injury to the respondent child (P).

P had been a nine-year-old pupil at a school run by the local authority. He had been playing with his brother by a metal wall-mounted water fountain on the school premises. P had intended to punch his brother, but had missed and punched the underside of the water fountain bowl instead. He lacerated his thumb and damaged the tendons. He made a full recovery but was left with a scar. The judge held that the school had not properly considered what risk the water fountain posed to children, that it had failed to carry out a properly considered risk assessment and that there was a distinct possibility that children might harm themselves on the water fountain.

HELD: The judge had failed to identify or resolve the legal issues that required determination. Under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 s.2 the question to be addressed was whether, as a matter of objective fact, visitors to the school were reasonably safe in using the premises, including the water fountain, bearing in mind that children did not behave like adults. The answer was yes. There was no evidence that the water fountain was not reasonably safe. The edge could not be described as sharp, but even if it was sharp it could not be said to constitute a danger to children. The school was not under a duty to safeguard children from harm under all circumstances. The school was no more obliged as an occupier to take such steps in respect of the water fountain than it would be in respect of any of the other numerous edges, corners or surfaces against which children might accidentally injure themselves while on the premises (see paras 12, 17-18 of judgment).

Appeal allowed.

 

End