Thursday, March 15, 2012

Does a school owe a non-delegable duty to its pupils?

Heads up for the very recent judgment of the Court of Appeal in Woodland (by her father and litigation friend Ian Woodland) v Essex County Council [2012] EWCA Civ 239 on 9 March 2012. In that case a school pupil was injured in a swimming lesson during the course of the school day. The school did not run the lesson and the preliminary issue was whether nevertheless they may be responsible. This centred around whether the duty to a pupil was non-delegable as it was in some cases involving a hospital and patient. The Court of Appeal held that this would involve an inappropriate extension of the law of negligence. However, perhaps the most significant aspect of the judgments was the leaving open of the possibility that the law might be changed by the Supreme Court. Laws LJ provided a powerful dissenting judgment and Tomlinson LJ (with whom Kitchin LJ agreed) said: “A development of the law along the lines sought must be a matter for the Supreme Court”. So solicitors with similar cases on the go may well be watching any further progress of this case (if any) with interest.

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