ACCIDENTS AT SCHOOL
I intend in this article to deal with the liability of school managers and teachers for accidents happening to children under their care. School accidents arc not usually very serious, but when a nasty accident does occur, the parents of the injured child can seldom succeed at law.
A few years ago the Governors of Wellingborough School were sued by a ,boy who, while walking along a corridor in that school, was injured by a golf ball driven through an open door by a boy in the playground. The injured boy lost the sight of one of his eyes and was awarded £295 damages.
The Governors, on appeal, obtained a reversal of this verdict on the grounds that the Plaintiff could succeed only if he could prove (r) that there was a lack of supervisiyn in the playground, and (2) that the accident was due to this lack of supervision. The Plaintiff had failed to do this and consequently could recover no damages.
It had been contended on the boy's behalf that the very fact that a golf ball had been in the playground at all was evidence of a lack of supervision. The Court, however, pointed out that the golf ball was only accidental, anything hard would have caused the same injury and that nobody could be expected to confiscate all hard objects the boys might have.
The Schoolmaster's Duty
The test of proper supervision was defined long ago, when Lord Esher said that a schoolmaster was bound to take such care of the boys under his charge as a father should take of his children, and must allow for the mischievous propensities of the boys and not rely on mere prohibition.
In the ease which Lord Esher was dealing with, bottles of chemicals were kept in an unlocked cupboard. One of the boys put a match in a battle containing phosphorous, shook it up, the bottle exploded, and the boy's face was severely injured. The Court held that the school authorities were negligent in allowing an intrinsically dangerous substance such as phosphorous to be obtainable by the boys and that the jury's verdict allowing the injured boy damages was prima facie correct.
If the injury arises during compulsory attendance at games the Plaintiff's position is not altered. In 1932 an unemployed youth of seventeen was sent by the Ministry of Labour to a juvenile instruction centre. He had to attend in order to qualify for his unemployment benefit.
While at the school, he was ordered to play a game called " Riders and Horses," in which the Plaintiff carried a boy on his back who tried to unseat another rider carried on some other boy's back. The Plaintiff fell with his " jockey " on top of him and injured his right arm.
The boys were not graded according to size or age, and some of them were much older and stronger than the Plaintiff. The jury awarded the boy Rr,000 damages but again, on appeal, this was upset, the Divisional Court holding that the injury could not reasonably have been anticipated and there was no negligence.
F. j. M.
[This series of articles began in our issue for August 7, 1936, and will continue fortnightly. Why not cut each one out and paste it in an exercise book ? You will then possess in time a complete compendum of the law as it affects you.
The series is written by an expert lawyer.—EDIT0R.]