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Landmark ruling over near drowning

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When she was a child, Annie Woodland, now in her early twenties, got into difficulties and almost drowned at a school swimming lesson. She subsequently suffered severe brain damage following resuscitation.

A claim for damages was rejected in 2011 and that decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal last year but the issue of “determining the circumstances in which a school’s duty to its pupils under the National Curriculum can be delegated” was raised at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has today ruled that if third parties were found to be negligent then Essex County Council, responsible for Whitmore Junior School, Basildon, Essex, would be in breach of a duty of care.

The latest ruling now paves the way for her to pursue compensation from Essex County Council. The question of whether Essex County Council is liable in this case remains to be decided and will be heard by the High Court next year.

Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said the decision was a “development of the law” and avoided the “unsatisfactory possibility” that one child could sue but another could not.

By Louise Grant, personal injury department