The claimant was a manager at one of four residential homes run by Sunderland County Council for boys with behavioural difficulties. The homes had one manager for six or seven boys each and were next door to each other. The managers and children came into regular contact, although the managers were the experts for the children in their homes.

A child from the home next door was banging his football against the door of the home run by the claimant. The claimant went to the door with the intention of telling the boy that he could come in. As she opened the door he kicked his football past the claimant into the home. He was not showing any signs of violence or upset. The claimant put her hand up against the door to block his entrance into the house and told him he could not come in. As she did so, the boy shoulder-barged past her causing her body to strike the doorframe.

Prior to that, the claimant knew the boy could be temperamental but had no knowledge he had been or could be violent to staff.

The defendants denied liability for the claim, despite the boy having been assessed as being a level 10 risk to others, the highest category of risk in the assessment. The individual crisis management plan (ICMP) for him stated: ”he will often challenge decisions made by staff and has shown himself to be capable of reacting aggressively when he does not get his own way.” The risk assessment and ICMP were filed away in each respective house and the information was not shared house to house.

The case was pursued to trial on the basis that it was foreseeably likely that the boy would be violent towards members of staff. The risk assessment and ICMP clearly identified these risks and therefore the defendants had breached their statutory duty by failing to make this information available to all staff that came into contact with him. There was a systematic failure that lead to the claimant’s accident.

The claimant’s evidence was that, had she seen the risk assessment, she would not have opened the door to the boy but instead would have called for someone from his house that had a relationship with him to come to deal with him instead.

The defendants argued the claimant would have opened the door even if she had seen the risk assessment and therefore the case should fail on legal causation. They also said that the children and their behaviour were discussed at monthly meetings.

The Judge preferred the claimant’s evidence. The defendant had failed to provide a mechanism where risk assessment and ICMP could be communicated to the claimant.

Judgment for the claimant.

Newcastle upon Tyne CC, 11 December 2008.