A woman´s claim for an injury in a school swimming lesson has been settled for £2 million after a protracted legal battle to determine liability.
When she was ten years of age, Annie Woodland attended a school swimming lesson at the Gloucester Park Pool near her home in Basildon, Essex. During the lesson, Annie experienced difficulties and was pulled from the pool unconscious. She was resuscitated by the side of the pool before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
Due to nearly drowning, Annie suffered significant brain damage. Throughout her youth and into adulthood, Annie (now 26 years old) has had to contend with severe learning difficulties caused by fatigue, loss of balance and memory problems. She is unable to work, manage her own affairs and has suffered from years of depression.
On his daughter´s behalf, Annie´s father – Ian Woodland – made a claim for an injury in a school swimming lesson against Essex County Council, Basildon District Council, the Swimming Teacher´s Association, the swimming teacher conducting the lesson – Paula Burlinson – and the lifeguard on duty at the pool, Deborah Maxwell.
In the claim for an injury in a school swimming lesson, Ian alleged that Essex County Council – the education authority responsible for the school Annie attended – had a non-delegable duty of care “in the capacity of loco parentis”. He claimed compensation from the council for the alleged negligence of the swimming teacher and lifeguard.
In 2011, both the High Court and Court of Appeal dismissed the claim for an injury in a school swimming lesson on the grounds that a successful claim would have “a chilling effect on the willingness of education authorities to provide valuable experiences for their pupils”. However, Ian persevered with the claim and – in 2012 – the Supreme Court ruled that Essex County Council did have a duty of care during a National Curriculum lesson.
The claim for an injury in a school swimming lesson was refereed back to the High Court to determine what level of negligence – if any – should be assigned to Paula Burlinson and Deborah Maxwell. Essex County Council was ultimately assigned two-thirds liability, with the lifeguard (Maxwell) being assigned one-third liability.
The High Court hearing was adjourned for an assessment of damages to be conducted, and a final settlement of the claim has now being agreed – Annie to receive a £2 million lump sum that will be managed for her by her solicitors.