The Supreme Court rules that schools have a non-delegable duty of care to pupils

01 Nov 2013

The Supreme Court has ruled that the duty of care owed by a local authority to children in their schools is a non-delegable duty and they are responsible for what happens in lessons even if those lessons are run by outside contractors.

This decision arose from a case brought on behalf of a girl who suffered brain damage in an accident during a swimming lesson while she was a pupil at school. She brought a claim against the local authority who ran the school but they defended it by saying they were not responsible for what happened because the swimming lesson was being taken by outside contractors who were hired by but were not employed by the local authority.

The Supreme Court said that the Council did have a duty of care which was non-delegable and that it was reasonable that it would apply in circumstances where the claimants were children or vulnerable people in their care and charge.

This decision means that the claimant in this particular case can now bring a negligence claim against the local authority direct. However, it has wider implications for other claims which may arise as schools and hospitals seek to contract out services.

Rhiannon Daniel, personal injury solicitor at Trethowans, commented; "this ruling will allow access to justice for claimants who may not have been able to make a claim previously. It will, however, impose a high standard on local authorities to ensure that they select reliable and recognised contractors to work with. The claimant was at school undertaking a lesson when the accident occurred. If there was negligence then it is right that the claimant is entitled to make a claim".