Council liable for school swimming tragedy

Posted: 20th February 2015

Pool 2Following a marathon legal struggle, a woman who almost drowned during a school swimming lesson when she was aged 10 has won the right to multi-million-pound compensation after a judge ruled that negligence on the part of her teacher and a lifeguard caused her lifelong injuries.

Annie Woodland was a primary school pupil when she almost lost her life at a municipal pool in July 2000. Her case raised important issues relating to the legal duties owed by teachers and others towards children during educational trips and her legal team had pursued her case through a number of hearings, including before the Supreme Court, before finally achieving success.

Neither her teacher nor the lifeguard had noticed that she was in difficulties before it was too late to save her from oxygen starvation and brain damage and the High Court found that they had not been as attentive as they should have been. The teacher had fallen far below the standard of care reasonably to be expected and the lifeguard had failed in her duty to keep the pool under constant observation.

The amount of the woman’s damages had yet to be assessed; however, her lawyers had estimated the value of her claim at several million pounds, given the extent of her permanent disabilities. The compensation will be payable by Essex County Council, which managed the school she attended and which bore indirect responsibility for the negligence of the teacher and the lifeguard.