With parents' demanding, varied and ever-changing work
schedules, the need for alternative child care arrangements is on
the rise, with many parents becoming reliant upon
childminders, family and friends now more than ever. The recent
decision of Craig Anderson v John Imrie and Antoinette Imrie
highlights the importance of considering the "what if"
scenario in terms of parental supervision whilst
other children are in your care.
In June 2003 Craig Anderson, a then eight-year-old schoolboy,
was seriously injured in an accident whilst playing on his
five-year-old friend's family farm. 13 years on, the Court of
Session awarded him £325,000 in compensation for Mr and Mrs
Imrie failing to take reasonable care for his safety.
At the time of the accident the Imries lived on the farm,
although the farm itself was owned by Mr Imrie's late father.
On the day of the accident, Mr Imrie had been working away from the
farm steading. Mrs Imrie had agreed to look after Craig. Mrs Imrie
told the boys not to leave the courtyard area and not to enter the
race or the midden. These were areas of the farm which were
dangerous and out of bounds.
Mrs Imrie acknowledged that at the time of the accident, she had
not been constantly watching the boys. Craig gave evidence that the
boys were usually left to their own devices. He told the court that
after playing football in a nearby field, they thought it would be
fun to try to herd some of the sheep into the stable adjacent to
Craig wanted to open the gate to the stable, but there was
another, heavy duty, gate positioned across the doorway. It was not
hinged, but was attached by a chain or rope on the top right-hand
corner of the gate. It is believed that Craig stepped on one of the
lower railings on the gate to try to untie it, but this had caused
the gate to flip backwards, crushing him between the gate and
Craig sustained multiple head injuries, which the court classed
as a mild traumatic brain injury. It was alleged that his injuries
had caused him significant problems in terms of his learning and
cognitive abilities, which have had a significant impact on his
Lord Pentland considered whether Mr and Mrs Imrie were the
"occupiers" of the farm for the purposes of the
Occupiers' Liability (Scotland) Act 1960. He found that as Mr
Imrie was unaware that Craig was on the farm, there was no breach
of his duty of care under the Act.
In contrast, Mrs Imrie was regarded as having assumed
responsibility for Craig and breached her duty of care under the
Act and at common law. It "was a foreseeable danger that the
pursuer would suffer injury on the farm if he was not sufficiently
supervised by an adult".
The court found that Craig had contributed to his own injuries
by not obeying the express instructions of Mrs Imrie. By leaving
the courtyard and entering the race, Craig had significantly
increased the likelihood of injury to himself. As such the court
found that he was 25% to blame for his injuries.
The court awarded damages in the sum of £325,000 to
compensate for the emotional trauma of the accident, Craig
Anderson's future loss of earnings, the cost of psychological
therapy and impact of the increased level of care on his
Given the circumstances of the case, it is clearly important to
consider your role when supervising children, particularly on
properties which might be a danger to children. Stay on top of
repairs and make sure your home or property insurance is up to date
The material contained in this article is of the nature of
general comment only and does not give advice on any particular
matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information
in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice
upon their own particular circumstances.
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