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Medall v Cornwall County Council, Exeter District Registry, 12 May 2003

20 May 2003
The issues

Deafness – educational negligence – “dyslexia”.

The facts

The Claimant was profoundly deaf, but with some limited residual hearing. He attended schools controlled by the Local Education Authority from 1974 to 1990. His parents, who had no hearing problems, chose to have him educated in Cornwall according to a method of teaching for the deaf known as auditory oralism. The Claimant alleged that his teachers in 5 different schools and colleges were negligent, in that he should not have been taught using auditory oralism, or that if he should have been, that the method of teaching should have been changed after it became clear that he was not progressing and that he should have been taught by sign language or sign supported English and probably in a specialist school for the deaf. The Claimant alleged that he left school without the ability to communicate effectively or to cope with the demands of employment, although he worked with a hearing building in an employment arranged by Remploy for some 6 years after leaving school. The Defendant, amongst other matters, relied upon the particular expertise of the Cornwall Audiology Service at the time, which had been recognised by HMI, and generally, for its high quality. The Defendants also of course relied generally on the Bolam defence.

Limitation had previously been heard as a preliminary issue and resolved in the Claimant’s favour.

The decision

The matter was listed for Trial for 5 days. After the evidence of the Claimant’s expert was given on the 2nd and 3rd days, it became clear on her own evidence that this was a case where it could not be shown that the Defendant’s witnesses, the teachers and teachers of the deaf, could be shown to have been negligent under the Bolam principles, ie that they had acted in accordance with a reasonable body of educational opinion at the time and in particular in Cornwall, having regard to the strong auditory oralist philosophies utilised within the County and in a number of other Counties in England at the time.


For further information, please contact Mark Fowles at markfowles@veitchpenny.co.uk or Bridget Frankpitt at baf@veitchpenny.co.uk.

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