Woman loses bid over Essex swimming pool injury

A woman who was brain damaged when she almost drowned in a school swimming lesson has had a claim against Essex County Council thrown out.

Annie Woodland, 21, was a pupil at Whitmore Junior School in Basildon when she had to be resuscitated in 2000.

Her lawyers are claiming for £3m damages from a number of parties including the council.

Mr Justice Langstaff threw out the claim against Essex on the basis that it was "bound to fail".

The court heard Miss Woodland now has severe learning difficulties and her father Ian launched a claim for compensation from the local education authority on her behalf.

'Significant interest'

Proceedings have also been brought against Basildon District Council, which ran the pool; The Swimming Teachers' Association; Beryl Stotford, who traded as Direct Swimming Services, and lifeguard Deborah Maxwell.

At a preliminary hearing, lawyers argued that Essex had a non-delegable duty of care "in the capacity loco parentis" at the Gloucester Park pool.

They said the authority was vicariously liable for the alleged negligence of both Ms Stotford and Ms Maxwell, and directly liable for failure to take reasonable care to ensure that Ms Stotford was an appropriate and competent contractor for swimming lessons and life-guarding services.

Essex denied that it was vicariously liable for any want of care on the part of the lifeguard or that the duty was non-delegable as alleged.

Mr Justice Langstaff said he did not accept "that any court could reasonably be persuaded on policy grounds to uphold such a duty".

But he gave permission to appeal against his ruling as it involved an issue of significant interest to schools, parents and pupils.

The hearing did not concern Miss Woodland's claims against the other defendants.

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