Slip on school hall proves a damp squib

The claimant, aged 15 at the date of accident suffered a serious knee injury when she slipped on a patch of water in her school assembly hall.

The hall could be accessed from two directions through fire doors which led directly into the quadrangle or through an entrance foyer at the opposite end.

In 2000, a teacher had slipped on water that had been brought into the hall by people entering through the fire doors in wet weather. At that time a risk assessment was carried out and the recommendations implemented, namely rubber matting on both sides of the door and preventing access through the fire doors in wet weather. In wet weather a sign was put up and prefects were stationed at the doors to prevent pupils entering. There was no such accident in the intervening period.

The claimants accident occurred mid-way through the morning break. Evidence showed that if it started to rain during break time, teachers would authorise the sign to be put up. There was, inevitably, a slight delay between the rain starting and the sign being put up. Some pupils entered through the doors before access was prevented and a small patch of water was deposited on the floor on which the claimant slipped.

The claimant contended the defendant did not have a proper system in place for (a) preventing the hall floor becoming wet and (b) clearing up the water if it did become wet.

The Court of Appeal upheld the trail judges findings that the system in place for preventing the floor becoming wet was reasonable under both common law and statute. Likewise, it was unrealistic for the school to have spotted and mopped the water within the short time frame between it being deposited and the accident. Liquid gathering on the floor was a rare occurrence and a specific system to ensure prompt mopping up was unnecessary.

The claimants appeal was dismissed.

The law does not require occupiers to take measures to absolutely prevent occurrence of any accident, rather the standard remains that of reasonable care. In this case, the Court was willing to consider what is reasonable in the specific circumstances, rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach.