Other Areas of Law, Public Authority Liability
All going swimmingly

In Woodland v Swimming Teachers Association and others [2011] EWHC 2631 Counsel for the Claimant contended that that a local authority owed a non-delegable duty of care to its pupils such that it was responsible for the actions of non-employees who had dealing with its pupils during the course of the school day – in this case a swimming pool lifeguard at a swimming pool away from the school and not under its direct control. Counsel contended that the time had come for such a non-delegable duty because ‘concepts of duty and negligence are not static, but responsive to current societal expectations’.

Langstaff J, on 17 October 2011, was distinctly unpersuaded by this and held that the Claimant’s claim was bound to fail. Not only was case law against it but he added that, in his view, no court could reasonably be persuaded on policy grounds to uphold such a duty. The Judge stated that it was reasonable to suppose that a parent would confidently entrust their child to a public swimming pool under the supervision of a reasonably and carefully chosen lifeguard and in the presence of a reasonably careful swimming teacher. Therefore, to argue that the school should be responsible for any failure of the lifeguard to exercise due care would be to extend the duty it owed beyond that of the parent.

All in all it was an ambitious submission was it not? Time for the lodging of an appeal has yet to expire I suppose.



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