Is school responsible for child’s injuries?

2016-08-03 06:00
Hermann Fourie

Hermann Fourie

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MY son got hurt at school when a steel post holding a newly-planted tree upright punctured his leg while he and his friends were playing on the school grounds. The school denies any negligence and feels that my son should have kept a sharper eye on possible dangers. Is the school liable, or is my son alone responsible for his injuries?


When children are placed in the care of any person or institution, be it his parents, the parents of a friend or a school, it holds that a greater measure of care, protection and supervision must be applied to ensure that the child does not get hurt.

The courts have over the years stood by the principle that heightened preventative measures must be taken by persons hosting activities for children, or who control sites where children are present or could possibly be present. Children do not necessarily have the same comprehension of danger or potential danger as adults have and it is the duty of persons responsible for the children to ensure that no danger or potential danger exists in areas where children could possibly fall in harm’s way.

When it is determined whether a danger or a possible danger exists, the courts apply a test to establish whether a reasonable person responsible for the child would have foreseen that a danger or possible danger exists and that a reasonable person would have removed the danger or made sure that there was no possibility of the child getting near that danger.

It is therefore clear that when it comes to educational institutions, schools and teachers are duty-bound to ensure that the area in which children play or could possibly play, is safe. This duty arises from the fact that the school assumes responsibility for the care of the child.

In your situation, the reasonable person responsible for children would most likely have known, or have foreseen, that the steel posts keeping young trees upright could represent a substantial danger should children play nearby or come into contact with them. It would also be expected that the reasonable school staff and teachers would have ensured that this danger was removed or that measures were taken which would make it impossible for children to get near it.

In your case, even though the school did not try and hurt the learner on purpose, it can likely be said that they were negligent and should have realised that their failure to keep the school grounds safe was the direct cause of your child’s injuries. My advice is to approach an attorney to assist you in determining the merits of your case.

– Hermann Fourie, Associate, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys

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