The New South Wales Supreme Court has ruled that the school of a boy who suffered a head knock while playing a game similar to touch football in PE class is not liable for his injuries.[1] The care taken by the PE teacher while supervising the game was found to be reasonable, and no duty of care was breached.


Facts

The plaintiff was playing a game similar to touch football in the top graded male PE class at school when he suffered a head clash with another student while jumping for a high ball that the teacher kicked to commence the game. The plaintiff was a 15-year-old skilled rugby league player.

The PE teacher and school nurse both initially thought the injury was minor and allowed the plaintiff to get the bus home as his mother could not pick him up. When attempting to get on the bus, the plaintiff slipped and fell. The bus driver did not allow him back on. The plaintiff attempted to walk to his friends’ house but was disorientated and went to the beach. Plaintiff was eventually picked up by his mother after being found by friends, who took him to the hospital. 

Months after, plaintiff began having seizures that have continued to date. 


Claim

The plaintiff claimed the PE teacher was negligent in allowing the game to be played, and that the first aid of the PE teacher and school nurse was negligent due to failing to provide adequate care and monitoring of an injured/concussed person. 


Decision

The court agreed with the Defendant’s liability expert that the game was conducted safely by the PE teacher, and that the game fit well into their syllabus.  The court found the PE teacher and nurse were not negligent in their care of the plaintiff, as the plaintiff was not seen to be knocked out, and the nurse made an attempt to contact the mother but was told by the plaintiff she wouldn’t be able to be reached. 

The Court found the defendant did not breach their duty of care to the plaintiff. The Court cited Trustees of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney v Kondrajian [2001] NSWCA 308, “A school is not an insurer of its pupils.” Just because the plaintiff was injured under their care, does not mean they are liable. The Court found that the risk of injury was a possibility, but the supervision was appropriate.

The Court ruled in favour of the defendant and ordered the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s costs.

 

[1] Mattock v State of New South Wales (New South Wales Department of Education) (No 2) [2021] NSWSC 1045