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Woman wins case after nearly drowning as a child

Posted in: Head and Brain Injuries Public Place Accidents School Accidents 

Annie Woodland had to be resuscitated after she almost drowned in a school swimming lesson thirteen years ago – she has only now won a landmark case at the Supreme Court.  Ms Woodland had been a pupil at Whitmore Junior School in Basildon, Essex, when the accident occurred in 2000. Her near-death experience caused her to suffer severe brain damage, which her father, Ian, described as doing “enormous damage” to their family. 

2011 saw a rejection of a £3m damage claim, which was maintained by the Court of Appeal last year.  However, this latest ruling will allow Ms Woodland to pursue compensation from Essex County Council as her lawyers argue that they owed her a duty of care as a 10-year-old child partaking in school swimming lessons. 

Teacher failed to recognise the pupil’s difficulty

It has been heard that the lifeguard and swimming teacher – employed by the county council – who was on duty at the time of Ms Woodland’s accident had failed to notice the fact that she was facing some difficulties in the pool.  As a result of this, Ms Woodland’s lawyers have maintained that her school owed her a duty of care, even when third party contractors were providing the teaching.

Lord Sumption argued in the Court of Appeal, in his ruling released on Wednesday, that the local authority is responsible; stating: “It is consistent with the long-standing policy of the law to protect those who are inherently vulnerable and subject to a significant degree of control … It is wholly reasonable that a school should be answerable for the performance of part of its own educational function.

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