Court Prefers Child’s Evidence – Near Drowning Claim

Children’s Word Was More Powerful Than Adults.

In a very difficult and tragic near death drowning claim, the evidence of 10 year old children about what happened in the swimming pool was preferred over the Adults.  A brief outline of the case can be found at Woodland v Essex County Council and Maxwell; this link will take you to another website where the full judgement can be read in detail.

In this case, the Court which was decided in 2013 when the Judge held that the Council could not transfer their duty of care to the children to an independent company the action proceeding to determine who was to blame, the school or the independent company.

 The Facts Were In Dispute

Regrettably the factual evidence of what happened at the swimming lesson was in dispute.  The lifeguard who was being sued via the independent company and the School were being sued.  It is understood that the school children gave oral evidence that they spotted the child drowning and shouted adults to help.  The adults did not pay any attention and the children attempted to rescue their classmate themselves.

The Lifeguard and adults in attendance gave a different story.  The lifeguard is said to have informed the court that the children’s swimming lessons had started before she entered the pool.  This vital part of the lifeguard’s evidence was not in her earlier statements to the court.

The swimming teacher on the other hand, informed the court that the child had only been in the swimming pool for no more than 15 seconds when she spotted the child’s face down in the water.

The Judge’s Findings

On hearing all the oral evidence from the children and adults, it was said that the Judge favoured the evidence from the school children.  The Judge said:

‘as the trial progressed my confidence in the reliability of the basic narrative of the children’s accounts strengthened.’

The children’s evidence was supported by an independent entry in the child’s medical notes which confirmed that the child had been swimming for 5-5 minutes before the near-drowning accident.  Due to the change in the adults events and the childrens’ evidence being supported by documentary evidence the Judge had found in the child’s favour and concluded that the lifeguard and teach failed to spot that the child was drowning in the swimming pool by at least 30 seconds.  That delay made them both liable and to blame for the tragic swimming accident.