Injury Compensation News

Woman with Brain Damage Compensated for Childhood Swimming Pool Accident

February 23, 2015

A woman, who was injured as a child in a supervised pool, has been compensated for her near-death experience.

The accident occurred in 2000 when Annie Woodland, then aged ten, visited Gloucester Park Pool for swimming lessons with her school, Whitmore Junior School in Basildon. The pupil had to be rescued from the pool and resuscitated after experiencing difficulty in the water whilst participating in a lesson. Miss Woodland has since experienced learning difficulties as a result of the brain damage sustained during the accident.

Acting on his daughter’s behalf, Ian Woodland brought a compensation claim against Essex County Council, Paula Burlinson (who conducted the swimming lesson) and Deborah Maxwell, the attending lifeguard at the time of the event. Mr Woodland sought £3 million in compensation from the education authority. Vicarious liability was argued against the school in that it was liable for negligence of its employees -the lifeguard involved and the teacher.

Essex County Council denied liability for the injuries and when the case was heard in the High Court in 2011, the judge ruled in the council’s favour. Mr Woodland then took the case to the Court of Appeal, where Lord Justice Tomlinson supported the High Court’s verdict, expressing his concern regarding the broader and almost certainly negative effects an opposite finding would have on the services provided by schools at large.

Mr Woodland again appealed the decision to the Supreme Court in 2012 where Lord Sumption found that Essex County Council was accountable for the alleged negligence of Paula Burlinson and Deborah Maxwell. Even so, the latter parties had yet to be found negligent in their duty of care towards Miss Woodland. This year, the case was heard again in the High Court under Mr Justice Blake, who ruled that the defendants were negligent in their duty of care by failing to notice Miss Woodland was in difficulty sooner. The concept of reasonable expectations for level of supervision and a judgment on what was sufficient attention to pool users were deciding issues. An assessment will  be carried out in due course to determine Miss Woodland’s needs for the future, after which the compensation claim will be resolved.

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