Education negligence cases predicted to soar

EDUCATION negligence cases may become as prolific as medical negligence claims, according to Teacher Stern Selby partner Jack Rabinowicz.

Rabinowicz, an education law specialist at the London firm, has 50 education cases on his books, most of which followed a ruling made by the House of Lords which opened Local Educational Authorities (LEAs) to the possibility of being sued.

“The ruling has opened the issue up for serious litigation,” he said, predicting that education negligence will reach “similar proportions” to medical negligence.

Rabinowicz added: “We are getting several inquiries a week from parents and students.

“There is obviously going to be a huge quantity of litigation.”

Teacher Stern recently appointed two new lawyers to its team of education and medical specialists. New partner Kate Rohde and assistant Samantha Chambers both have backgrounds in medical negligence claims, but anticipate extending their work into the education area.

Robert Love, partner at Gloucestershire firm AE Smith & Son, has 40 education cases on his books, but he does not believe the ruling will lead to a flood of litigation because it focused on teachers who were diagnostic experts.

He explained: “This is not a carte blanche for action to be taken against the teaching profession.”

Love added that the ruling did not allow individuals who were generally dissatisfied with the quality of their education to bring an action against an LEA, as this would eat into the LEA’s financial resources and congest the courts.

“The courts are not going to wear that,” he said.

“The test case has merely established the principle that a duty of care was owed to a child with special education needs and that in certain cases an LEA could be negligent.”

Richard Gold, partner at West End firm Bennett Taylor Tyrrell, has started informing schools on how to reduce the risk of claim.

“I think there will be many attempts to bring cases against schools in relation to educational provision,” said Gold.

He added: “I’m not sure that very many will be successful because the burden on the plaintiff is going to be very heavy.

“They have to show the school has fallen below the standard that would reasonably be expected and the child has suffered a loss as a result.”