The claimant was 10 years old. Together with other friends of the same age, he arrived at the school gates to go swimming. The gates were locked. They were six-feet tall metal with sharp metal prongs at the top and coated with anti climb paint. The normal practice was for the gates to be unlocked.

The children attempted to obtain help from the school caretaker’s office but could not get an answer. There was another access route to the swimming baths but this was about 750 metres away next to a busy main road and the children were not allowed by their parents to walk round to the main entrance. The children therefore decided to climb the gate. As the claimant attempted to climb his right hand became caught on the spike causing him to lose the tip of his little finger.

The Judge accepted evidence from witnesses that the gate had been regarded by users of the site as a public access route. If the defendants wished to lock the gate they should have erected a sign advising users of an alternative access route. While adults faced with a locked gate would be likely to use an alternative route or abandon their journey, a child of 10 could not be expected to do so and it would be likely that such a child would attempt to climb over. The defendants were held liable with no finding of contributory negligence.

Kelly -v- Sunderland CLC School Services Limited. Newcastle County Court, 11 April 2007.

Cyclist’s claim fails

We recently reported a case where a driver was found liable for failing to be aware of pedestrians who might jump out or walk out without warning. In a recent case, our client was a cyclist. The defendant driver was stationary at a traffic light. The claimant rode past her on the right. The defendant was looking for a parking space and not indicating. The claimant assumed that she was going straight ahead and proceeded to turn right. However the defendant also turned right across the claimant’s path and hit her. The defendant said that the claimant “came out of nowhere” and that she did not see her.

The Judge held that the claimant was entirely to blame for the accident. She was negligent for riding alongside the defendant and should have stayed behind regardless of what the defendant was doing. She did not think the defendant was negligent at all although she clearly failed to see the claimant.

Bullimore -v- Smith. Central London County Court, 9 March 2007.