Summary - Schools should check insurances of
third party service providers before excursions or sporting
We have previously discussed the case of Harris. But to recap,
Mr Harris sustained a back injury in the course of a school
excursion to the snow. Students who were "beginners" were
placed in learn to ski classes which were conducted by ski
instructors employed by Perisher Blue at Smiggins Hole. The
teachers from the school took no part in supervising the classes.
Mr Harris was a beginner. He sustained a back injury when he lost
control going over a mound while descending a gentle slope, during
the learn to ski class. He landed in a ditch.
Mr Harris sued the school and later joined Perisher Blue. He
succeeded in establishing that it was negligent to conduct a
beginners' class in an area where there was a mound and a
The District Court Judge who heard the case attributed the
negligence wholly to Perisher Blue and found that the school and
its teachers had not been negligent. However, relying on section 5Q
of the NSW Civil Liability Act, the Judge found that the school was
vicariously liable for the negligence of Perisher Blue and
therefore entered judgment against both the school and Perisher
Blue. However, the Judge ordered Perisher Blue to indemnify the
school for its liability to the plaintiff.
Perisher Blue has filed an appeal.
A school can be vicariously liable for the negligent actions of
an independent contractor to whom it has entrusted its students,
even if the negligence occurs wholly within the scope of the task
which the independent contractor has been retained to perform.
On a practical level, schools must ensure that persons or
organisations to whom they entrust their students have insurance or
the financial capacity to meet any potential liability. Otherwise,
the indemnity which a school might obtain from an independent
contractor might be worthless in which case the school would be
left to pay the judgment.
Schools should check the insurances of such
persons/organisations, whether they be external coaches, venue
operators, transport providers, excursion providers, etc before
entrusting their students to their care.
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Contractors and principals should ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage instead of relying on indemnity clauses.
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