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Barrie v Cardiff City Council, Court of Appeal

30 April 2002
The issues

Schools – Playgrounds – Occupiers Liability Act – Children

The facts

Claimant was age 6 and had brittle bone disease. She fell in her school playground used by children aged 4 to 7. It was a tarmacked gently sloping area together with a paved area next to the school itself. On two sides of the slope was a concrete edging or fillet which the Claimant fell over. It was 15 mm high and it ran between the paved and tarmacked areas. Between 100 and 125 children played in the area at any one time. There had been no previous significant accident due to the presence of the fillet. The Recorder at first instance found for the Claimant. The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. In tripping cases whether in playgrounds or on the highway, the test of dangerousness was one of reasonable foresight of harm to users. Each case would turn on its own facts.

2. The Court would bear in mind the extreme youth of the children, the height of the ridge, its length and the fact that some children would be more likely to fall than others on the one hand and on the other hand the long period of time over which the difference in level had been present, the amount of use, and the absence of previous accidents.

3. As with the highway a playground is also not to be criticised by the standards of a bowling green. There was no evidence that the 15mm change of level presented significant problems or should have been seen as dangerous.

4. Although at first instance Counsel had submitted that the fact that the Claimant had brittle bone disease might give rise to an enhanced duty of care towards her, that submission was not pursued. Per Pill LJ that concession was realistic. But Per Chadwick LJ “it was not suggested that that condition made it any more likely that she would trip; nor that the fact that if she were to trip, the injuries which she might suffer were likely to be particularly severe, enhanced any duty owed by the local authority in respect of the school premises. I express no view whether in other cases those factors might be relevant.”

Appeal allowed.

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