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Essex County Council were found liable for a swimming pool accident in 2000 in which a ten year old girl nearly drowned resulting in her suffering serious brain injuries.
Mr Justice Blake found that both the swimming teacher and the lifeguard were negligent and that the County Council was liable for their negligence.
The ten year old girl had been in the advanced group in a swimming lesson. Not long after she entered the water the swimming teacher noticed that she was floating vertically in the water. She didn’t respond to questioning or a physical touch and so the swimming teacher called for assistance and then she and another swimming teacher got her out of the water.
Unfortunately, despite mouth to mouth and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation being administered and the arrival of an ambulance within a few minutes, the ten year old ultimately suffered from serious brain injuries which were ongoing.
The Judge found that the swimming teacher failed to notice that the girl was in difficulties in the water for more than thirty seconds. He concluded that this fell below the standard of care which was reasonably to be expected.
As for the lifeguard, she was further away than the teacher. The Judge emphasised that a lifeguard is there to keep an eye on all pool users. He concluded that she also failed to undertake her role to the reasonable standard to be expected. He said that this was shown by the fact that she failed to notice that the girl was in trouble until this was drawn to her attention by the teacher.
This case has had a long history which had previously ended up in the Supreme Court. This came about after the claimant added Essex County Council into the action. The high court struck out that claim and this was upheld by the Court of Appeal. However, in October 2013, the Supreme Court reversed this and allowed the claim against the council to proceed.
Above all, this tragic case highlights the need to take particular care when supervising children in public places, particularly in swimming pools and other places where water sports are involved.
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