Jennifer Rowlinson | Trainee Solicitor

Should Adults be Required to Advise Children of Risks when Playing?

Yes, according to a recent case in the High Court of England and Wales, The Bosworth Water Trust v SSR & Ors ((2018) EWHC 444 (QB)). The case highlighted the importance of providing a duty of care to children you are supervising and made clear that there is a requirement on adults to provide advice to children on the risks involved in play activities.

In this appeal case, the children attended a birthday party at a Crazy Golf Course. The children had played a number of holes, but one of the children (J) became frustrated at one of the holes. He took a full swing with his golf club and hit another child (SSR) in the side of the face. The injury resulted in SSR becoming blind in his left eye.  J’s mother did not supervise the activity but was close by.

At first instance, the judge concluded that J could present with challenging behaviour which required firm handling and supervision, but he was not considered a violent child. The judge accepted that J would accept instruction and behaved well in sporting contexts. The judge considered that the boys required clear instructions on how to behave on the golf course. The judge accepted that J’s mother had provided a level of supervision and instruction and dismissed the claim against J’s mother.

The decision was appealed by the Claimants. In overturning the decision against J’s mother, the Court held that J’s mother had primary responsibility for supervising the children. The judge accepted the finding in fact that J had swung the golf club on two occasions. The judge held that J’s mother did not advise the children not to swing their golf clubs, albeit she advised the children to keep a safe distance.

In reaching her conclusions, the judge distinguished between situations where the children are supervised and where they are not supervised. When children are not supervised, it would be reasonable to expect J’s mother to give a firm and clear instruction not to swing the golf clubs. If the children were supervised, then J’s mother could adopt a light touch approach to safety instructions because she would be on hand to step in if there was a problem. In not supervising the boys, the Judge concluded that J’s mother failed to provide firm handling, in the form of clear instruction to J, which the Judge considered to be negligent.

This was an English case, but Scottish Courts can consider the case to be of persuasive authority. The case highlights the need for adults, who are caring for children, to be aware of the risks involved in children’s activities and to advise children accordingly. It is worth bearing in mind that a higher duty of care is placed on adults, whilst they are supervising children, when they decide not to supervise the children.

At Jackson Boyd we have experience of dealing with cases involving injuries to a child. For more information or to discuss a potential claim please contact us online by clicking here or speak to a member of our specialist team on 0333 222 1855.

Jennifer Rowlinson

Jennifer Rowlinson

Personal Injury Team

Jennifer is a trainee solicitor with Jackson Boyd. She commenced her traineeship with the firm in 2017.

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