06 October, 2016
Megan Murray v Mark Mccullough, as Nominee on Behalf of the Trustees and on Behalf of the Board of Governors of Rainey Endowed School  NIQB 52
The claimant was 15 when she was struck with a hockey stick whilst playing in a match for her school. She was not wearing a mouth guard and she sustained serious dental injuries, together with a cut to her upper lip.
The claimant brought a claim against the school arguing that the wearing of mouth guards should have been mandatory and that she and her parents were not sufficiently warned of the risks of not wearing one.
At trial, the court preferred the hockey teacher's evidence that a mouth guard was highly recommended to the claimant and that warnings were given in age appropriate language and in sufficiently clear terms so that she was aware of the risks. The duty of care placed on a school teacher was one of reasonable care in all the circumstances. The Court found The International Hockey Federation did not require mandatory wearing of mouth guards and the standard procedure at schools in Northern Ireland was for the use of mouth guards to be highly recommended and not mandatory.
The claimant confirmed that she chose not to wear a mouth guard due to the slight degree of inconvenience despite knowing the risks involved. The claimant's parents were also sufficiently warned of the risk by the school's uniform code. The claim was duly dismissed.
Whilst this decision is encouraging for schools, each case will turn on its facts. It is notable in this case that the claimant was 15 and according to the judge was able to understand and to weigh the risks of wearing a mouth guard.