A Court of Appeal judge has thrown out a personal injury claim by a boy against his school after he hurt his thumb punching a water fountain.
Lady Justice Sharp said the law would ‘part company with common sense’ if the school was found responsible for his injuries.
The 12-year-old claimant had been awarded £3,215 in damages at a previous hearing after injuring his thumb during a play fight with his younger brother when he was nine.
He successfully sued West Sussex County Council, the local authority which ran St Andrews School in Horsham, after suffering a cut thumb and tendon damage in 2010. Litigation was begun around two years later.
But Lady Justice Sharp upheld the council’s appeal in a hearing on 9 October, asserting that the appellant was not liable in law for the injury.
‘The school was not under a duty to safeguard children against harm under all circumstances,’ she said in her judgment, published this week.
‘Each case is of course fact-sensitive, but as a matter of generality, the school was no more obliged as an occupier to take such steps in respect of the water fountain than it would be in respect of any of the other numerous ordinary edges and corners or surfaces against which children might accidentally injure themselves whilst on the premises.’
She said the court had looked at and felt the underside of the water fountain and it could not be described as sharp and ‘by no stretch of the imagination’ a danger to children.
‘It is of course unfortunate that this little boy hurt his thumb in what might be described a freak accident, but such things happen.’
Her judgment was agreed by fellow judges Lord Justice McFarlane and master of the rolls Lord Dyson.