Former schoolgirl unsuccessfully sues council after injuring her foot

09:53 17 November 2012

PA Wire/Press Association Images

A woman who sued Bromley Council after injuring her foot as a schoolgirl in Beckenham almost six years ago has failed to win damages.

Emma Richards, who was injured when a “door closed into contact with the back of her left heel”, deserved sympathy but not money after requiring five stitches, a judge said.

The Court of Appeal heard that Mrs Richards claimed damages for personal injury after the incident at Langley Park School for Girls when she was 15 in February 2007.

A county court judge had rejected Miss Richards’ claim earlier this year and three appeal judges yesterday dismissed her attempt to overturn that decision.

Lord Justice Tomlinson, who sat with Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Munby, said Miss Richards had suffered a “nasty laceration”.

“The injury required the insertion of five stitches at the local hospital,” said Lord Justice Tomlinson.

“She has my sympathy. Sympathy however is an insufficient basis on which to subvert the law of tort.”

He added: “It needs to be understood that not every misfortune occurring on school premises attracts compensation.”

Judges were told that another pupil at the school had suffered a “trivial injury” to her heel when the door hit her foot in October 2006.

The school’s site manager - “or more prosaically the caretaker” - had “generated a risk assessment form” and reported the step outside the door as a “hazard” following the 2006 incident, said Lord Justice Tomlinson.

He had recommended the raising of the step and work had been scheduled for Easter 2007, the judge added.

Lawyers representing Miss Richards argued that “steps could and should have been taken” following the 2006 incident to “prevent a recurrence”.

But Lord Justice Tomlinson said the arguments were “wholly unrealistic and unconvincing”.

“The trivial nature of the earlier incident and the risk which it brought to light, seen in the context of 30 years safe use of the doors by thousands of children and staff, rendered reasonable both the nature of the remedial action which the school authorities proposed to take and the timescale within which they proposed to do it,” he added.

“I would dismiss this appeal.”

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