piBlawg

the personal injury and clinical negligence blog

A collaboration between Rebmark Legal Solutions and 1 Chancery Lane

Definitely a good walk spoiled: Hammersley-Gonsalves (A child by his litigation friend T Gonsalves) v Redcar & Cleveland BC

Some things simply make one feel old: the 90s revival, being older than your doctor, complaining about people playing music on public transport.  To this (abridged) list I can now add school games lessons.  Back in my day (a phrase that can be added to the aforementioned list) school sport largely consisted of being cold and taking part in team games in the winter (good character building stuff no doubt) or in the summer, a bit of cricket and then pretending that anyone cared about athletics.    What wasn’t contemplated was teaching the pupils how to play golf, and if Hammersley-Gonsalves (A child by his litigation friend T Gonsalves) v Redcar & Cleveland BC is anything to go by, a very wise policy that was indeed.  The decision in Hammersley-Gonsalves has just been handed down by the Court of Appeal.  The Claimant, who at the time of the accident was almost twelve years old, was being taught golf at his secondary school.  The school had given 22 boys six indoor golf lessons.  For the seventh lesson, the enterprising PE teacher had created a golf course in the school grounds. Quite properly, the teacher taking the lesson had told the pupils, who each had one club and one ball, not to use their club or hit anything until instructed to do so.  The pupils walked out onto the school grounds in single file.  However, boys being boys, one of the children decided to disregard the instruction and when having reached the school field, put his ball down and took a swing. Unfortunately, this resulted in C being hit in the face by the golf club.  Equally unfortunately, this not being a proper golf club, there wasn’t a collection of doctors in the club house bar. The Claimant succeed at first instance, with the judge finding that  the teacher could not see what the pupils were doing, and that he did not see the pupil swing the club that hit the Claimant.  As such, it was held that the lesson had not been adequately supervised and consequently that the Defendant local authority had not met the appropriate standard of care. The Court of Appeal had no trouble with the judge’s finding that the teacher could not see every pupil at every moment.  However, it was difficult to see how the Claimant could succeed absent an allegation relating to staffing ratios.  It was obvious to the Court of Appeal that one teacher could not be expected to see every action of 22 boys when walking in single file, however, on the judge’s finding a lack of adequate supervision was not made out. There had been no history of bad behaviour and the action of the careless young golfer was unexpected. Although the question of appropriate staffing ratios had not been argued, in the cricumstances closer and additional supervision was not required given the age of the children and the nature of the activity.  Also, even if the teacher had been negligent in not observing the boy swinging the club, it also had to be established that that failure was causative of the Claimant’s injuries.  The judge had not dealt with this and there was no finding that on a balance of probabilities any action by the teacher would have prevented the accident.All in all it would have been far better to stick with football.

Ski, Riding and Now... Cycle Helmets

In my recurring theme as to contributory negligence and protective headwear (not to mention my citing of the most authoritative legal sources – this time “The Metro” 29 July 2011), there is a corpus of medical opinion which advises against making cycling helmets compulsory. This is on the grounds that such a law is likely to decrease cycling activity and that it is “inconclusive” whether helmets reduce injuries.   Certainly then, this is something that Clamant parties in cycling head injuries may wish to consider when faced with arguments as to contributory negligence.    

Safety on the slopes

I have recently returned from a long weekend in the Three Valleys, thankfully with all limbs and joints operating as they ought to.  My first skiing experience was in 2006 and this year has definitely presented the most challenging conditions I have encountered.  Little snowfall (or "Few Snow" as the signs charmingly declare at the top of some runs), warm conditions and use of articificial snow to boost what nature has provided has led to thin cover, ice at higher levels and bumps and slush lower down.  That said, hats off to those runing the resorts because many runs remain in remarkable condition considering. Inevitably there are those unluckier than me, who are returning home with the assistance of crutches and plaster casts.  Much of the time accidents occur because of "operator error" or sheer bad luck.  Collisions do occur however and claims can arise out of them.  Without even getting started on the helmet debate, an issue for another time, it is worth noting that rules for the slopes do exist and they can be of assistance when considering a claim arising out of a ski accident.  These are put in place by the FIS (International Ski Federation) and can be found online at: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/insidefis/fisgeneralrules/10fisrules.html And for your perusal, here they are: 1.     Respect for others A skier or snowboarder must behave in such a way that he does not endanger or prejudice others. 2.     Control of speed and skiing or snowboarding A skier or snowboarder must move in control. He must adapt his speed and manner of skiing or snowboarding to his personal ability and to the prevailing conditions of terrain, snow and weather as well as to the density of traffic. 3.     Choice of route A skier or snowboarder coming from behind must choose his route in such a way that he does not endanger skiers or snowboarders ahead. 4.     Overtaking A skier or snowboarder may overtake another skier or snowboarder above or below and to the right or to the left provided that he leaves enough space for the overtaken skier or snowboarder to make any voluntary or involuntary movement. 5.     Entering, starting and moving upwards A skier or snowboarder entering a marked run, starting again after stopping or moving upwards on the slopes must look up and down the slopes that he can do so without endangering himself or others. 6.     Stopping on the piste Unless absolutely necessary, a skier or snowboarder must avoid stopping on the piste in narrow places or where visibility is restricted. After a fall in such a place, a skier or snowboarder must move clear of the piste as soon as possible. 7.     Climbing and descending on foot A skier or snowboarder either climbing or descending on foot must keep to the side of the piste. 8.     Respect for signs and markings A skier or snowboarder must respect all signs and markings. 9.     Assistance At accidents, every skier or snowboarder is duty bound to assist. 10.   Identification Every skier or snowboarder and witness, whether a responsible party or not, must exchange names and addresses following an accident.