23 May, 2019
A music teacher who brought a claim against the local authority, alleging negligence and breach of statutory duty has lost at trial.
The Claimant was a peripatetic music teacher, who visited the school on a weekly basis to deliver music lessons. She tripped on a threshold whilst walking out of a classroom and sustained a serious injury. An extension to the school building had resulted in a difference in levels between the classroom and the outer area. The threshold had been marked with black and yellow tape. The Claimant had taught from this particular classroom for nine months prior to the accident and was familiar with the accident location. The Claimant confirmed that she was aware of the tape but that on the day of her accident the tape was not noticeable. It was alleged that the tape had faded over time and had become damaged. There was a sign on the door stating, "mind the step" but the Claimant argued that the sign was not noticeable when the door was open.
During the trial, the Claimant described that she felt that the area had always been dangerous, although she had never reported it to the school. She explained that she always kept in mind there was a difference in height.
After considering the evidence, the Judge dismissed the claim. He found that it was clear from the evidence that the Claimant was conscious of the threshold and was aware of the signage in the area. The Claimant simply misjudged the difference in height and fell.
The claim was dismissed.
We are delighted that the Court accepted that the school had acted reasonably in the circumstances. Occupiers must only do what is "reasonably practicable". Occupiers are not expected to take steps, which would be disproportionate to the risk. If a risk cannot be eliminated, then reasonable and proportionate steps must be taken to reduce the risk to the lowest possible level.