Woodland v The Swimming Teachers Association (D1), Beryl Stopford (D2), Deborah Maxwell (D3) Essex County Council (D4), Basildon District Council (D5)[2001] EWHC 2631 (QB)  

The claimant (c) was a 10-year-old pupil who was injured during a swimming lesson at a pool in Basildon, which was run by D5. The class was taken by a swimming teacher D2. D3 was a lifeguard who was present during the lesson and was employed by D2. D4 was the education authority responsible for the school that C attended.

During the course of the lesson, C got into difficulties and had to be rescued and resuscitated. She was deprived of oxygen to her brain and suffered a severe brain injury.

The court was asked to consider as a preliminary issue whether D4 was vicariously liable for the actions of D2 and D3 and whether they had a non-delegable duty of care in the capacity loco parentis.

The claim against the school and D4 failed. The court held:

  • the school and therefore D4 could not be held responsible for any failures of the lifeguard to exercise due care during the lesson as to do so would extend the duty beyond that which would apply to a parent
  • the school did not employ or control the swimming teacher or lifeguard and was not vicariously liable for their actions
  • the accident occurred away from the school premises at a place where they had no direct control
  • there were no policy grounds to support this being a non-delegable duty
  • to impose a non-delegable duty upon the school (and therefore D4) would be a considerable expansion of liability.