Connor v Surrey County Council: CA 18 Mar 2010

The claimant teacher said that she suffered personal injury from stress after the board of governors improperly failed to protect her from from false complaints. The Council now appealed against an award of substantial damages.
Held: The Council’s appeal failed. It should have exercised the statutory discretion available to it, to replace the school’s governing body with an interim executive body. It had allowed the situation to get out of hand, resulting in the damages suffered by the claimant.
‘The deputy judge’s comment ‘[f]ears over accusations of racism appear to have quelled a proper response’, was obviously justified on the evidence. That and other passages reflect the . . theme which runs through the whole depressing history: it is that the claims of Mr Martin and his associates were generally given weight by the council, while the anxieties of the demoralised claimant are generally sidelined . . The council’s capitulation to these sombre pressures was lamentable. The consequence was a serious neglect of their duty to the claimant who was in the firing-line of these assaults, and was also the council’s employee. In my judgment the deputy judge’s findings of fact as to the council’s breach of duty are well justified.’
The court considered the circumstances in which decisions taken by public bodies acting (or declining to act) under statutory powers may give rise to liability for the tort of negligence, though there was in any event a pre-existing and independent duty of care owed to the claimant. That established duty may however be affected by statutory responsibilities, and ‘the law will in an appropriate case require the duty-ower to fulfil his pre-existing private law duty by the exercise of a public law discretion, but only if that may be done consistently with the duty-ower’s full performance of his public law obligations. ‘
The court concluded that ‘the deputy judge was entitled to find the two heads of negligence as he did. But I should sound a note of caution. This is an unusual case, partly because of the council’s lamentable capitulation to aggression, partly because the remedy – damages for negligence consisting in the use or non-use of public law power – must, as I have said, rarely be available.’

Laws LJ, Sedley LJ, Thomas LJ
[2010] EWCA Civ 286, [2011] 1 QB 429, [2010] PTSR 1643, [2010] IRLR 521, [2010] 3 All ER 905, [2010] 3 WLR 130, [2010] ELR 363
Bailii, Times
School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2003, Education (School Government) (Terms of Reference) (England) Regulations 2000
England and Wales
CitedEast Suffolk Rivers Catchment Board v Kent HL 1941
An exceptionally high spring tide caused many breaches of the banks of the River Deben, and extensive flooding, including the respondent’s farm. By section 6 of the 1930 Act, the appellants had a statutory power to maintain the flood defences, but . .
CitedCutler v Wandsworth Stadium Ltd HL 1949
The Act required the occupier of a licensed racetrack to take all steps necessary to secure that, so long as a totalisator was being lawfully operated on the track, there was available for bookmakers space on the track where they could conveniently . .
CitedCaparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others HL 8-Feb-1990
Limitation of Loss from Negligent Mis-statement
The plaintiffs sought damages from accountants for negligence. They had acquired shares in a target company and, relying upon the published and audited accounts which overstated the company’s earnings, they purchased further shares.
Held: The . .
CitedHM Customs and Excise v Barclays Bank Plc HL 21-Jun-2006
The claimant had served an asset freezing order on the bank in respect of one of its customers. The bank paid out on a cheque inadvertently as to the order. The Commissioners claimed against the bank in negligence. The bank denied any duty of care. . .
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 . .
CitedCarty v London Borough of Croydon CA 27-Jan-2005
The claimant sought damages in negligence from education officers employed by the respondent. He appealed refusal of his claim. A statement of special education needs had been made which he said did not address his learning difficulties. The . .
CitedStovin v Wise, Norfolk County Council (Third Party) HL 24-Jul-1996
Statutory Duty Does Not Create Common Law Duty
The mere existence of statutory power to remedy a defect cannot of itself create a duty of care to do so. A highway authority need not have a duty of care to highway users because of its duty to maintain the highway. The two stage test ‘involves . .
CitedWoodbridge School v Chittock CA 27-Jun-2002
A child on a school skiing trip, had been injured whilst skiing on-piste, but unsupervised. The school appealed a finding of liability.
Held: The teachers and supervisors owed the same duty of care as a reasonably careful parent with some . .
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.
CitedGorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
CitedSutherland v Hatton; Barber v Somerset County Council and similar CA 5-Feb-2002
Defendant employers appealed findings of liability for personal injuries consisting of an employee’s psychiatric illness caused by stress at work.
Held: Employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees. There are . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Negligence, Education

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.403353