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Chittock v Woodbridge School, High Court

25 September 2001
The issues

Schools – School Trips – Supervision – Horseplay

The facts

The claimant and two other pupils who were all about 14 were allowed by the School to go on a Ski-ing Trip which had already been organised for pupils aged 12-14.

It was clear to the School and to the parents that the claimant and friends would be on a largely independent holiday although they would be generally supervised by the staff. It was not in anybody’s minds that they would be ski-ing with the other pupils or that they would be under the control of the staff as to where and when they skied.

The claimant was seen ski-ing off-piste and was told by staff he was not to do so. He was seen ski-ing off-piste a second time and warned but not punished. The school could have taken his ski pass away or made him ski with the other pupils.

The claimant skied off-piste a third time and had an injury suffering a serious accident to his back leaving him with low paraplegia and no feeling below his knees. He sued.

The decision

The staff of the school had been put on Notice that the claimant was doing something he had clearly been prohibited from doing when they found him ski-ing off-piste for the second time. The staff should have known that he could not be trusted to do as he was told.

Merely telling the claimant off was not in the reasonable range of responses from a member of staff in the place of a parent. This was a breach of the school’s duty. If a more substantial punishment had been administered the claimant would not have been able to ski off-piste again.

The claimant was however guilty of substantial contributory negligence – apportioned at 50%.

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