Injured schoolboy stripped of damages

Posted: 22nd July 2012

Golf at seasideA schoolboy has been stripped of £21,000 damages that he was awarded after being hit in the face by a golf club during a sports lesson after the Court of Appeal ruled that it is ‘impossible’ for teachers to keep a constant eye on every pupil in their charge.

The claimant was aged 11 when he suffered smashed teeth and a broken jawbone in an accident during a golf lesson at the specialist sports academy he attended.

He sued Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council (the council), which ran the school, claiming that a physical education teacher had ‘failed adequately to supervise’ the 22 boys taking part in the lesson.

The claimant was awarded £21,000 damages at the county court by Judge Peter Cuthbertson, who ruled that the teacher had been negligent in failing to keep every pupil in a ‘crocodile’ of children in his line of sight at all times.

However, that finding has now been overturned by the Court of Appeal, where Lord Justice Pill ruled that teachers ‘cannot be expected to see every action of every pupil’ in their care.

The claimant was accidentally hit in the face by another pupil with a club as the class made their way to a school field for a golf lesson. The teacher was at the back of the line of 22 boys and did not see the incident happen.

Lawyers representing the council argued that Judge Cuthbertson’s decision placed ‘an unrealistic burden’ on teachers. ‘One teacher cannot possibly keep 22 pupils in direct sight at all times,’ it was submitted.

Allowing the council’s appeal, Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Lord Justice Rimer and Lady Justice Black, said: ‘I have difficulty in seeing how this claim can succeed. However observant the teacher is, and however careful the lookout he is keeping, he cannot be expected to see every action of 22 boys walking in a crocodile fashion. The teacher could not be expected to see every action of every member of the group wherever he positioned himself'

‘The supervision did not fall below the reasonably required standard. This was an unfortunate accident and one feels sympathy for a boy who received the unpleasant injury that he did without any fault on his part. However the council cannot be held responsible for what happened.’