25th March, 2024

Jamie Hill successfully represents Claimant in multi-track assault at work case

Jamie Hill has secured judgment for the Claimant following a 2 day liability trial at Manchester County Court.

The case involved an assault which occurred in 2018. The Claimant was employed as a teaching assistant at a school for pupils with specialist needs.  On the day in question, the pupil had entered the school in an agitated state. The Claimant had, in accordance with her training, attempted to de-escalate the situation by applying pressure to the pupil's hands. This had not worked, and the pupil had then subjected the Claimant to an 'horrific' assault.

During cross-examination, the school's headteacher admitted that the school had been aware that the pupil had a history of violence against staff, which included biting, but that the pupil's risk assessment and behaviour plan did not make specific reference to this. It was also admitted that the behaviour plan and system the school operated required to pupil to spend time outside, walking on a field, before coming into school in order to calm him down. It was accepted that this had not occurred on the day as the pupil had run away from his supervisor. The pupil had then been able to access the school because the main entrance doors to the school were faulty and would not lock in the manner they should have.

It was not in dispute that the Defendant, as the Claimant's employer, owed her a duty of care at common law. The Circuit Judge found that the Defendant had breached that duty. The locks had been faulty for a considerable period of time. In addition, the Judge found that the risk assessment the Defendant had undertaken was inadequate.

In assault at work cases, causation is often hotly contested, as it was in this case. The Defendant argued that notwithstanding any failings there may have been, the real cause of the assault was the pupil's unpredictably violent behaviour. However, the Judge found that had the locks been working, the pupil would not have been able to enter the building at the time and in the distressed manner that he did, and thus the assault would likely not have occurred. In addition, the Judge found that had the Defendant properly assessed the risk of assault, and biting in particular, the Claimant would have been instructed to keep her distance, rather than approach the pupil when he presented in crisis. The Judge found that had the Claimant kept her distance, the assault would not have occurred.

Jamie Hill was instructed by Natalie Maxwell of Thompsons Solicitors, a firm with significant experience in representing employees who have been assaulted whilst at work.

Jamie Hill is clerked by Joe Gibson and Phillip Spencer. Both are able to provide more information on the expertise within chambers of running and defending assault at work cases.

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