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Jenny v North Lincolnshire County Council Court of Appeal

12 June 2000
The issues

Duty of Care – Child estranged from School onto Highway – Knocked down by Car – Liability of Education Authority

The facts

An 8 year old child suffering from “global development delay” could not safely be allowed out of school on his own. The school had 5 gates. All gates were to be kept closed and teachers were to close them when they found them open. During break time children were in the playground under supervision. No one had responsibility for checking whether the gates were closed before break. During afternoon break the Claimant left the school on its own through one of the five gates. He had travelled approximately 1000 metres from the school when he was knocked down by a car on a main road.

The decision

The Judge as a preliminary issue, found the school in breach of their duty to establish a system for ensuring as far as practicable that all 5 gates were kept closed and fastened during school hours and particularly at breaks and that the system of relying teachers to shut gates if and when they found them open was insufficient having regard to the risk of accidents of children without road sense getting onto the main road. The Local Education Authority appealed the decision. The appeal would be dismissed. The school could not say how the Claimant had come to be out on the road and since the school had been unable to satisfy the Court that it had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent children who would have been at risk in traffic getting out unaccompanyined the school had failed to discharge the evidential burden of showing that the accident was not due to its negligence. That the maxim res ipsa locquiter applied and that the Claimant was not required to establish that any particular set of facts caused the accident.

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