Victory for brain injured woman is just the first step in a long battle. Today the Supreme Court handed down it’s judgment in the case of Annie Woodland -v- Essex County Council.
The claim on behalf of a girl aged 10 at the time of the accident is brought against her local authority Essex County Council who are responsible for Whitmore junior school. It is alleged that the massive brain injuries received through partial drowning are as a result of the negligence of the agents/sub-contractors for the school , Beryl Stotford trading as “Direct Swimming Services”. As such the claim is made that the school/local authority had a non-delegable duty of care and are therefore vicariously liable for the negligence of their agent/sub-contractor as this was in school time and formed part of the National Curriculum.
The decision by the court today confirms that the school had a non-delegable duty to look after the Claimant whilst at her school organised swimming lesson and if their agents/sub-contractors are found to be negligent then the local authority will be vicarious liable and required to compensate the claimant in this tragic case.
This however is only the first step as the claimant must now return to the High Court to prove the negligence against the swimming instructors. On the facts though this seems a strong case.
The decision today is a victory for common sense. To have found for the school would mean that , potentially, schools could outsource their risk. Clearly parents send their children to school and expect the school to look after them during this time.
It will be interesting to now see how the case develops.