Hammersley-Gonsalves -v- Redcar & Cleveland BC [2012] EWCA Civ 1135

C, an 11 year old pupil, sustained a facial injury when he was struck by a golf club swung by a fellow pupil during a golf lesson.

C brought a claim against his school (D) alleging a failure to adequately supervise the group of 22 pupils. There was no allegation in respect of the staffing ratio.

The Master in charge gave evidence that this was the seventh lesson for the group. On this occasion the group had been instructed to walk to the golf course holding the club halfway down the shaft and to carry the ball in the other hand. They were told not to swing the club until told to do so. The Master walked at the back of the group to the golf course.

At first instance the judge found that the Master did not have a clear view of what all the pupils were doing and held that D had been negligent for failing to adopt an adequate standard of supervision and care.

On appeal the claim was dismissed. The failure of the Master to see the quick and unexpected swing of the golf club did not give rise to a finding of negligence. The appellant’s system, as applied by the Master, was held to have been reasonable and did not fall below the standard reasonably required.

Pill LJ also addressed the question of causation stating that even if the Master’s failure to notice the swing of the golf club had been negligent, C would have to show that failure was causative of the accident. He observed there had been no finding at first instance that on the balance of probabilities, action by the Master would have prevented the accident.