Landmark judgment made by The Supreme Court

3 September 2014

In 2000 Annie Woodland, aged 10 at the time, nearly drowned during a swimming lesson being given by an outsourcing company that had been hired by the local authority, Essex County Council.

Her case included a claim that the swimming teacher and lifeguard, who were not local authority employees, negligently failed to notice that she was in difficulty during the lesson.

In 2012 the Court of Appeal rejected her claim for damages, totaling £3million, on the basis that it would not be fair, just or reasonable to impose a non-delegable duty upon Essex County Council.

However, the Supreme Court Judgment given on 24th October 2013 stated that there was a reasonable burden on the council through its non-delegable duties of care. These duties include where the claimant is a patient, child or vulnerable person in the custody or care of the defendant.

An increasing number of schools and hospitals are outsourcing work to third parties making this landmark case even more significant. The lawyer acting for the claimant has suggested that the case provides a ‘blanket of reassurance’ for those relying on schools and hospitals. She believes it should lead to reviews on outsourcing procedures by local authorities on a national scale.

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.