Wilkin-Shaw v Fuller and Kingsley School Bideford Trustee Co Ltd [18.04.13]

Court of Appeal confirms school was not liable following the death of a pupil during an adventure training exercise.


The case has highlighted a number of important points and serves as a reminder of the importance of accurately pleading a case and ensuring all the constituent parts of a tortuous claim are covered.

The claim failed because of a failure to link the potential negligence of Miss Timms causally with the decision of the children to ignore clear instructions and pursue an alternative route. The Court Of Appeal appeared to row back from any criticism of Mr Wills' intervention and made the fair point that neither party had alleged any negligence on his part.


Our review of the High Court decision sets out the background to this case.

In summary, the Claimant’s 14-year-old daughter drowned whilst on a school training exercise for the Ten Tors exhibition. At first instance, Mr Justice Owen held that there had been no breach of duty of care.

On appeal, the Claimant alleged that a member of the school staff, Miss Timms was negligent in failing to be present at the checkpoint at Watern Tor and that the Second Defendant was vicariously liable for this failure. Miss Timms and her colleague had mistakenly taken a longer route than was necessary to get there.


Lord Justice Pill dismissed the appeal, finding as follows:

  • A high standard of navigational skills was to be expected of those training 14-year-olds during an expedition on Dartmoor. There must be a finding of negligence against Miss Timms.
  • It was very speculative as to what course events would have taken had Miss Timms been present at the checkpoint. He was not able to conclude that her presence would have led to a different outcome.
  • In any event, the intervention of Mr Wills would have broken the chain of causation.