Adams v Bracknell Forest Borough Council: HL 17 Jun 2004

A attended the defendant’s schools between 1977 and 1988. He had always experienced difficulties with reading and writing and as an adult found those difficulties to be an impediment in his employment. He believed them to be the cause of the depression, panic and lack of self-esteem which he suffered. He consulted his doctor about those conditions, but was too embarrassed to disclose his literacy difficulties during the consultations. In 1999, when aged 27, he met by chance an educational psychologist, who suggested that he might be dyslexic. Upon a doctor confirming that diagnosis the appellant, in 2002, issued proceedings against the defendant. He claimed damages for negligence on the grounds of the defendant’s failure properly to assess the educational difficulties he had experienced at school. He said that such an assessment would have revealed that he suffered from dyslexia and led to treatment to ameliorate the consequences of that condition.
Held: The judge was right in applying the standard of reasonable behaviour to a person assumed to be suffering from untreated dyslexia, but there is no reason why the normal expectation that a person suffering from a significant injury will be curious about its origins should not also apply to dyslexics. A substantially objective test is to be applied when deciding what knowledge a claimant could reasonably be expected to acquire within section 14(3)(b). No sufficient reason had been shown to justify exercise of the court’s discretion to extend the limitation period under s33. Dyslexia, or at least the failure to treat it could constitute personal injury.

Lord Hoffmann, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Baroness Hale of Richmond
[2004] UKHL 29, [2005] 1 AC 76, [2004] 3 WLR 89, [2004] 3 All ER 897
House of Lords, Bailii
Limitation Act 1980 14(3)(b) 33
England and Wales
Appeal fromAdams v Bracknell Forest Borough Council CA 6-May-2003
The claimant sought damages from the defendant for having failed to diagnose his dysexia, resulting in educational failure. The respondent argued a reasonable peson would have sought help earlier. The council appealed a refusal to strike out of the . .
CitedRobinson v St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council CA 25-Jul-2002
The claimant sought an extension of the limitation period to allow him to pursue an action. He sought damages for negligence against his former school which had failed to diagnose and treat his dyslexia.
Held: His appeal was denied. The claim . .
CitedM and Another v Newham London Borough Council and Others; X (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council CA 24-Feb-1994
A local authority was not liable in damages for breach of a statutory duty in Social Services. The policy which has first claim on the loyalty of the law is that wrongs should be remedied. The court would not go so far as to hold that the education . .
CitedX (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council; M (A Minor) and Another v Newham London Borough Council; Etc HL 29-Jun-1995
Liability in Damages on Statute Breach to be Clear
Damages were to be awarded against a Local Authority for breach of statutory duty in a care case only if the statute was clear that damages were capable of being awarded. in the ordinary case a breach of statutory duty does not, by itself, give rise . .
CitedPhelps v Mayor and Burgesses London Borough of Hillingdon CA 4-Nov-1998
The plaintiff claimed damages for the negligent failure of an educational psychologist employed by a local authority to identify that the plaintiff was dyslexic.
Held: An educational psychologist has no duty of care to a child, as opposed to . .
CitedPhelps v Hillingdon London Borough Council; Anderton v Clwyd County Council; Gower v Bromley London Borough Council; Jarvis v Hampshire County Council HL 28-Jul-2000
The plaintiffs each complained of negligent decisions in his or her education made by the defendant local authorities. In three of them the Court of Appeal had struck out the plaintiff’s claim and in only one had it been allowed to proceed.
CitedSmith v Central Asbestos Co Ltd CA 1971
Edmund-Davies LJ said of a report prepared by a committee of which had been chairman into ‘whether any alteration is desirable in the law relating to the limitation of actions in cases of personal injury where the injury or disease giving rise to . .
No longer good lawSmith v Central Asbestos Co Ltd; Central Asbestos Co Ltd v Dodd HL 1973
The House considered at what point an injured person was to be deemed to have become aware of his injury so as to start the limitation period.
Held: A majority rejected the proposition that knowledge of ‘material facts’ for section 1(3) . .
CitedGlasgow Corporation v Muir HL 16-Apr-1943
The House considered the proper test to define the standard of care that must be adopted by the reasonable man in a claim for negligence.
Held: Lord Clauson said that the test is whether the person owing the duty of care ‘had in contemplation . .
PersuasiveForbes v Wandsworth Health Authority CA 21-Mar-1996
The plaintiff had a history of circulatory problems in his legs. He underwent surgery losing his leg. The question was when he should have sought advice as to why an attempted by-pass operation had resulted in one leg having to be amputated. He . .
CitedO’Driscoll v Dudley Health Authority CA 30-Apr-1998
The plaintiff sought damages for the negligence of the respondent in her care at birth. Years later the family concluded that her condition was a result of negligence. They waited until she was 21, when they mistakenly believed that she became an . .
CitedNash v Eli Lilly and Co CA 1993
The court considered whether a solicitor acting for a potential plaintiff was considered to be an expert for the purposes of the section.
Held: Purchas LJ said: ‘Of course as advice from a solicitor as to the legal consequences of the act or . .
CitedAli v Courtaulds Textiles Ltd CA 26-May-1999
A claimant was not fixed with knowledge of the source of his injury by being referred for medical opinion. He could not be expected to understand the source of this injury without expert assistance, and time did not run until such assistance was . .
CitedFenech v East London and City Health Authority CA 2000
The court was asked how to set the time at which the claimant became fixed with knowledge of her injury. They ‘found it unnecessary to attempt any final reconciliation, because ‘on any sort of objective approach’ the claimant should have made . .
CitedSmith v Leicestershire Health Authority CA 29-Jan-1998
The plaintiff appealed a finding that she had sufficient knowledge of her possible claim for medical negligence against the defendants, and that she was out of time. She had known of her condition, but said she had no sufficient reason to see that . .
CitedParry v Clwyd Health Authority QBD 1996
The court preferred the more objective approach as to looking at when a plaintiff was to be fixed with knowledge of his injury: ‘If the purpose of section 14(3) is to create deemed or constructive knowledge in circumstances where there is no actual . .
CitedKR and others v Bryn Alyn Community (Holdings) Ltd and Another CA 12-Feb-2003
The respondent appealed decisions by the court to allow claims for personal injury out of time. The claims involved cases of sexual abuse inflicted by its employees going back over many years.
Held: The judge had misapplied the test laid down . .
CitedCoban v Aynur Allen F Barnes and Son (a Firm) CA 8-Oct-1996
The defendant resisted the plaintiff’s claim for personal injuries as out of time. His explanation for not pursuing inquiries with his solicitor was that he was an over-stayer who feared deportation.
Held: Having good reason to make such . .
CitedGlaister v Greenwood ChD 26-Feb-2001
. .
CitedWebster v Cooper and Burnett CA 2000
. .
CitedMortgage Corporation v Lambert and Co (A Firm) and Another CA 24-Apr-2000
If it was alleged that a lender could should have been aware of an overvaluation of a property so as to start the limitation clock, the owner must satisfy the court that it was reasonable at the time alleged for the lender have become obliged to . .
CitedMellors v Perry CA 2003
The claimant had endured a childhood of renal problems with three kidney transplants but had no reason think that this was anything other than the consequence of her congenital disability. . .
CitedBarrett v London Borough of Enfield HL 17-Jun-1999
The claimant had spent his childhood in foster care, and now claimed damages against a local authority for decisions made and not made during that period. The judge’s decision to strike out the claim had been upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Cited by:
CitedCatholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) and Another v Young CA 14-Nov-2006
The claimant sought damages saying that he had been abused as a child whilst in the defendant’s care. The defendants appealed a finding that the claimant had not first known of his injury more than three years before begining his action.
Held: . .
CitedMcCoubrey v Ministry of Defence CA 24-Jan-2007
The defendant appealed a decision allowing a claim to proceed more than ten years after it had been suffered. The claimant’s hearing had been damaged after an officer threw a thunderflash into his trench on an exercise.
Held: The defendant’s . .
CitedCollins v Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills and Others CA 23-May-2014
The claimant appealed against rejection of his claim for personal injury which had been rejected on basis that it was out of time. He had contracted cancer in 2002, but had recovered. He later came to attribute this to exposure to asbestos at work . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Education, Professional Negligence, Limitation

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.198183