New Judgment: Woodland v Essex County Council  UKSC 66
23 Wednesday Oct 2013
On appeal from:  EWCA Civ 239
The appellant, a pupil at a primary school, suffered a serious hypoxic brain injury during a school swimming session which took place during school hours as required by the national curriculum. Proceedings for negligence were issued against the respondent. This allegation was struck out in the High Court on the basis that the respondent did not owe a ‘non-delegable duty of care’, and was not liable for any negligence on the part of the contractors who provided the lessons.
The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal against the order striking out the allegation of a non-delegable duty. The scope of the respondent’s duty to pupils in its care included performance of the functions entrusted to it by whomever it might get to perform them. Non-delegable duties of care are inconsistent with the fault-based principles on which the law of negligence is based, and are therefore exceptional. It is fair, just and reasonable to impose such duties in order to protect those who are inherently vulnerable and subject to a significant degree of control.
The case was referred to the High Court to determine whether the appellant was the victim of negligence.