Boy Entitled to Damages from Council After Skylight Fall
A Kent teenager has won the right to seek damages in the High Court after falling through the roof of the youth club at the Eden Valley School in 2001. Sixteen year-old Stephen Young climbed onto the roof of the youth club one night to retrieve a ball. Tragically, he fell through a brittle skylight and suffered serious neurological damage that left him with no chance of gaining future paid employment.
Kent County Council attempted to defend the case by saying that his £1 annual subscription to the youth club had expired, making him a trespasser on their property and therefore not owed the same duty of care due to an ‘authorised’ visitor. However, the judge rejected this defence, going on to say that the Council had not taken reasonable care in order to ensure the boy’s safety.
In the first place, the Council was found not to have carried out a risk assessment of the area. In addition, evidence was presented that it was normal for children to climb onto the roof using the flue of an extractor fan that was at the side of the building. Since the building’s users were children, the Council’s duty to protect them was greater. By simply placing a fence around it, a relatively low cost solution, the Council could have made the area safe and probably prevented the accident.
Mr Justice Morison held that the teenager would have known that the roof of the building was out of bounds to him. For this reason the responsibility for the injury was considered to be split equally between the Council and the claimant. This means that the damages, which are still to be decided, will be reduced by 50 per cent.
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