News & Views

Compensation for playground fall

BY Thomas Elliott
Health & Safety
BG Orange

A Scottish council has been penalised after a girl fell and hurt her wrist while swinging from rafters in a playground shelter.

The accident happened at a playground shelter at the Burgh Primary School in Galashiels, run by Scottish Borders Council.

The schoolgirl, Abigail Wardle, was nine when the accident took place. Her mother claimed compensation from the council, claiming it was responsible because children had not been prevented from accessing the rafters. At the original hearing of the case the court was told that the girl had been caught swinging from the rafters before the accident and been warned not to do it again.

The case was originally dismissed by a sheriff but that decision has been reversed by Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen on appeal. He said he would have thought it was fairly obvious that the rafters would have been attractive to children for climbing on. He also pointed out that two months after the accident the council installed boards to stop children accessing the rafters.

Bowen added that if the council had done that earlier the accident would not have happened. The council’s failure to take earlier preventative action meant they were in breach of their duty of care to the girl.

However, he also noted that the pupil had disregarded the warning not to play on the rafters and ruled that she was 50% to blame for the accident.

The parties had already agreed that full compensation should be £4,000, and the effect of the judgment that the girl was 50% responsible means that the compensation payable by the council is reduced to £2,000. The costs of the case will be met by the council.

A spokesman for the council said that although they were disappointed by the outcome, they would respect the court's decision.

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