A headmistress who told her girls ‘not to dawdle’ on the way to hockey practice was not to blame after one of them fell over, a top judge has ruled.
Katherine Lee was accused of negligence after pupil Hannah Pook, 10, suffered a shattered elbow in the fall at Rossall School.
But, exonerating the head, Mr Justice Martin Spencer said there was nothing ‘inherently dangerous’ about telling pupils to run.
The judge expressed ‘every sympathy’ for Hannah but rejected her £45,000 damages claim against the independent school.
She and other girls were having a PE lesson in October 2010 when Mrs Lee told them ‘not to dawdle’ between the changing rooms and the hockey pitch.
Hannah, now 17, said that, as the group approached the school’s astroturf pitches, she and a friend began to race each other to get there first.
Mrs Lee was bringing up the rear, burdened by heavy hockey equipment, and there was a post-graduate student towards the front of the group, the court was told.
Hannah said her feet slipped on a muddy grass verge and she fell backwards, hitting her right elbow on a kerb. The severe fracture had to be fixed with wires at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Hannah needed surgery and intensive physiotherapy.
Despite a deep steroid injection and years of treatment, she remains scarred and has never recovered full movement.
Hannah’s damages claim was last year rejected by a judge in Manchester, who said it was ‘perfectly proper’ for Mrs Lee to tell the girls not to dawdle.
Although Hannah had run ahead, and was out of teachers’ sight when she fell, the pupils had been adequately supervised, it was ruled.
Challenging the judge’s ruling, Hannah’s barrister, David Knifton, argued that the muddy verge was ‘a danger or trap’ for the unwary.
Mrs Lee, he argued, should not have ‘effectively encouraged or permitted’ the girls to run to the hockey pitch.
Accidents like Hannah’s, he told the judge, ‘simply should not happen in a school environment.’
Ruling on the case, Mr Justice Spencer said there was ‘no negligence’ in the case against ‘caring and thoughtful’ Mrs Lee however.