House of Lords refuses leave to appeal; Court of Appeal’s decision that parents did not breach their duty of care in supervision of bouncy castle stands.
On 10 September 2005 Mr and Mrs Perry were holding a children’s party for their triplets’ birthday. They had hired a bouncy castle and a bungee run which they erected in a playing field behind their house. The Claimant, Samuel Harris, who was 11 years old, was taking part in a football training session on the playing field. Before the party started children who were not invited to the party, including Samuel, went over to play on the bouncy castle. One boy did a flip or a somersault, and Samuel did as well, but before he got up an older and larger boy also somersaulted and, as he came down, his heel struck Samuel on the forehead, causing serious injury. It was claimed that Samuel had permission to use the bouncy castle, although this was disputed by Mrs Perry.
The Court of Appeal, overturning the first instance decision, held that the key issue was what precautions Mrs Perry should reasonably have taken to protect against the risks to which she knew or ought to have known children playing on the castle would be exposed to. The standard of care required was that which was appropriate to protect children against a foreseeable risk of physical harm that fell short of serious injury. There was no justification for holding that the duty of care requires the children who are playing on a bouncy castle to be kept under constant supervision. Mrs Perry acted reasonably in concluding that she could supervise both the bouncy castle and the bungee run at the same time.
In the appeal judgment, Lord Phillips said of Mrs Perry "The manner in which she was supervising activities on the bouncy castle and the bungee run accorded with the demands of reasonable care for the children using them. The accident was a freak and tragic accident. It occurred without fault."
Held: The Appeals Committee of the House of Lords has refused the Claimant leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal decision. We understand that the Appeals Committee decided that the Court of Appeal did not make new law when reaching their decision to reject the claim.
Comment: The refusal of leave to appeal brings this case to a conclusion. This will come as a relief both to those involved in organising children's activities where there is a risk of injury and to their insurers. Following on from the Court of Appeal decision it will be more difficult for claimants to argue that there has been a lack of supervision. Potential defendants and insurers will also welcome the apparent trend in the courts moving away from the so called "cotton wool culture" preventing children from experiencing managed risk.