Council liable for injuries caused by paintbrush in school

David McIntosh and Austin Lafferty, Glasgow acted for Christopher Brown in his successful case to establish that North Lanarkshire Council were liable for the permanent injuries suffered by his son Thomas when at school in Motherwell.

Thomas, then 10-years-old, suffered a catastrophic brain injury when a paintbrush punctured his eye and brain in the course of an art class. He and his classmates were kneeling on the floor painting when he was knocked by a little girl as she stood up. This caused him to topple on to a paintbrush being held by a child next to him thus sustaining the injury. Thomas, now 18, is unable to live independently and is reliant upon his parents for support. Because of the level of disability his father Christopher has been appointed as his Guardian.

As Guardian, Mr Brown raised the action against North Lanarkshire Council who were responsible for Thomas’ school in Motherwell for breach of duty of care.

On 23rd November 2010 the court opinion was issued finding that the Council were liable for the injuries sustained by Thomas at the school. The court held that the risk of some sort of penetrating injury from the paintbrush was a real and foreseeable one.

This is a landmark decision as it is the first finding of fault involving the use of a paintbrush in a Scottish school. The Council argued that there had never been an accident like this before or since Thomas was injured and that the dangers of using paintbrushes were too remote to predict.  The court did not agree.

The repercussions of this decision will reverberate in all classrooms as teachers now need to stop, think and assess whether the materials and implements they are using could foreseeably cause an injury.

There will be a separate Hearing to establish the level of damages in January 2012.