Geyer v Downs and another: 1977

(High Court of Australia) A pupil suffered injuries when hit by a softball bat by a fellow pupil at playing the game in the school playground before school. There was no supervision. The jury awarded the appellant damages. The verdict was set aside by the court of appeal.
Held: The appeal to the High Court was allowed: ‘It was urged for the respondent that there was no duty of supervision owed to the children before ‘school hours’. That expression was taken in the present case to mean the period of time beginning at 9.00 am, at which the ‘Daily Routine’ stated that the playgrounds were to be supervised. Reliance was also placed upon the departmental instruction as set out, supra, which it was said produced the result that the headmaster had no power or authority to require teachers to supervise the playground otherwise than during the hours 9.00 am to 3.30 pm as set out in that instruction. It was said therefore that the headmaster could not be regarded as negligent by failing to take measures to provide supervision of the playground prior to 9.00 am when he had no authority to direct any teacher to be present to perform that function. So to regard the case is to take an unduly restricted view of the relevant circumstances. There is no case which lays down that there is no duty of supervision prior to ‘school hours’, however that expression may be understood. The point seems to have been seldom referred to. In Ward v Hertfordshire County Council [1970] 1 All ER 535 at 538; [1970] 1 WLR 356 at 361, Salmon LJ expressly reserved the question whether lack of supervision could give rise to a cause of action in a case where the injury occurs at 8.50 am but ‘the school does not start until 8.55 am’. There seems no basis for treating it as a rule that there can be no duty of supervision outside ‘ordinary school hours’ or ‘before school started’. The question must depend upon the nature of the general duty to take reasonable care in all the circumstances. It is not enough to look only at the departmental instructions and to say that the duty of supervision arises only during the periods referred to in those instructions.’
Murphy and Aickin JJ
[1977] 17 ALR 408
Cited by:
CitedKearn-Price v Kent County Council CA 30-Oct-2002
The claimant was injured, being hit in the face by a football in a school playground. It was before school started. There had been accidents, and there were rules which had not been enforced. The school appealed a finding of negligence.
Held: . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 06 August 2021; Ref: scu.214302