Peterborough City Council appealed against a decision awarding the claimant damages for personal injury on the basis that the accident was not reasonably foreseeable.

The claimant worked in a secure facility for violent women. She was due to teach a group of three women in a locked classroom. Local Authority (LA) policy was that staff members should not be alone with more than two women; however, due to various circumstances, the claimant found herself alone in the locked room. Although she was not in a position of immediate danger she nevertheless got up quickly to make her way to the door to summon someone. When doing so she tripped on a chair.  

In the first instance, the court found for the claimant. On appeal, it was argued that the accident was not reasonably foreseeable. Had the claimant sustained her injuries as a result of the threat of – or actual – violence then this would have been foreseeable. As it was, by her actions the claimant broke the chain of causation.  

It was acknowledged that the claimant’s accident had not happened in the most likely manner (ie: through violence or the threat of violence). It had arisen from her taking action to remove the risk and remedy the LA’s breach of duty in leaving her alone contrary to policy. In these circumstances the risk of injury was foreseeable and, although it did not occur in the most likely manner, the fact that she was injured could be sufficiently envisaged and was caused by the LA’s breach of duty.