Our client was a four year old who was attending an after school club. She was told to wash her hands before eating. She ran towards the exit. Directly in front of the exit doors was a large metal pole used to support the roof. The pole had been there for many years. It was square edged and the edges were not rounded off to any great degree.
Another child had also been told to wash his hands at the same time as the claimant. The claimant collided with the other child, tripping over his leg and struck her head on the pole. It was conceded that it was likely that the client, due to the nature of the laceration, had struck her head on the sharp edge of the pole.
At some point afterwards and in response to the accident, the pole was covered with a soft tape.
It was held that the defendants were not liable.
Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act occupiers must take extra care with regards to children because children are likely to be less careful than adults. The warning given by the staff (telling claimant not to run) did not absolve them.
The court reasoned that there will be hundreds of falls at schools involving pupils of all ages, some serious, some less so and in many cases it will be purely fortuitous whether there is an injury. The fall may be against a table, a wall or a cabinet. In discharging the duty of care, the court stated that it wasn’t necessary to take steps against every eventuality, they only had to take reasonable steps. The court put particular emphasis on the fact that neither staff nor parents had, prior to the accident, considered the pole to constitute a risk.
Jill Baston -v- Derbyshire County Council. Nottingham CC, 25 May 2006.