The Claimant, Mrs Hadlow, was a 63-year old teacher at Clare Lodge, which is a secure facility for women owned by Peterborough City Council. The young women in the secure facility were there because they were often violent. The policy of the unit was that no member of staff should be left alone with more than two women. The council knew that the teaching assistant who was going to accompany Mrs Hadlow was going to be late for work, but they still put Mrs Hadlow in a locked room with three women, one of whom had been violent on the previous day. Mrs Hadlow had a personal attack alarm with her. When Mrs Hadlow realised that she had been left alone she immediately went to summon help but in so doing she tripped over a chair, sustaining injuries.

What did the court of appeal find?

The court concluded that although the injuries were not caused by an attack, a risk of injury had been created by the council and Mrs Hadlow reacted in an appropriate way by hurrying through a confined space to the door. The court found that the risk of physical injury was predictable and, while it did not happen in the most likely way, it was sufficiently connected with a risk created by the council to render them liable. Mrs Hadlow was awarded £16,432.51.

Truth Legal’s comments

Many a personal injury lawyer has expressed surprise at this decision, because the precise circumstances of the accident did not appear predictable, but the court’s logic is sound. Mrs Hadlow had been previously attacked in 2005 and was understandably frightened at the prospect of being left alone with three violent women. The risk of injury was foreseeable and had been created by the council. Had the council followed their own procedures, Mrs Hadlow would not have been injured and the council would have saved their council taxpayers a lot of money.

See the full case report here.

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