15 August, 2019
Saleem & Rizwan v Rochdale Borough Council
In October 2017, the First Claimant was taking his daughter, the Second Claimant to school. It was alleged that as they walked through the school grounds, they both tripped and fell in the missing part of a dilapidated grate. They brought a claim for personal injury pursuant to section 2 Occupiers Liability Act 1957.
The Defendant denied the grate was missing at the time of the alleged accident. The Defendant relied on a photograph taken just two weeks prior to the accident showing children playing nearby. In the photograph, the drain cover can be seen in situ and intact. The Defendant also relied on a system of regular inspection. The site supervisor inspected the school grounds on a weekly basis; he noted any repairs in writing and arranged for the prompt repair of such items.
The First Claimant's evidence on the exact cause of the accident was unclear. The CNF, Particulars of Claim and the witness evidence gave differing accounts of the cause and mechanics of the accident. At trial, the evidence was confused and no explanation could be given by the First Claimant to account for how his daughter had also come to fall in the same defect. Notably no foot or ankle injury was sustained by either Claimant.
On behalf of the Defendant, a teaching assistant at the school gave evidence confirming that she did not see the fall but heard noise and saw the First and Second Claimant on the ground. She went over to help and at trial, she confirmed that the grate cover was in place and not damaged.
The Court therefore concluded that the First and Second Claimant did fall but they did not fall as a result of the alleged defect. The claim was dismissed.
We are delighted with the successful outcome of this claim. The Court was impressed with the Defendant's witnesses; and concluded that the school had an adequate system of inspection in place.
To be in a strong position to defend claims, schools must be able to demonstrate a system of inspection and maintenance. Accidents should be recorded and investigated as soon as possible after the event. Schools are advised to retain relevant records and where possible, to take photographs of any alleged defects or hazards to assist in the defence or a swift dismissal of a claim.