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PI and Civil Litigation

Law - practice - procedure

02 OCT 2014

Sloan v Governors of Rastrick High School [2014] EWCA Civ 1063

Sloan v Governors of Rastrick High School [2014] EWCA Civ 1063
Breach of Statutory Duty – Manual Handling Regulations

 Court of Appeal: Moore-Bick, Ryder LJJ, David Richards J
 29 July 2014


 An appeal against a recorder’s finding that a school had not been in breach of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHO Regs) (SI 1992/2793) was dismissed.


 The claimant was employed as a learning support assistant at Rastrick High School from 1 September 2008. She was provided with 5 days of training before working on her own from 6 September 2008. On 17 September 2008 she experienced pain in her shoulder and back after pushing a student in a wheelchair. The pain continued and she left the school’s employment at the end of October 2008.

 The claimant brought a claim against the governors of the school based on breach of statutory duty in respect of the obligations on the school under the MHO Regs. The claim was dismissed at first instance.

 The claimant appealed on the basis of 16 grounds, including that the recorder had (1) misdirected herself as to the burden of proof, (2) had erred in preferring the evidence of the school’s experts and (3) had failed to make clear findings or instead made perverse findings on whether the school had breached the regulations by (4) failing to provide powered wheelchairs for the students, (5) having risk assessments performed by an employee who was not employed as a health and safety officer and (6) failing to reduce the risk of injury by informing the claimant of the combined weights of the students and the wheelchairs that she would be pushing.

 In dismissing the appeal, it was accepted that while the recorder did misdirect herself on the burden of proof under the MHO regs, the recorder had made firm findings of fact not influenced by the burden of proof and she had actually applied the correct burden of proof when making those findings.

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On the claimant’s other points of appeal, the court dismissed them all, noting that the choice of type of wheelchair was not a matter for the school and that requiring students to use powered wheelchairs would not always be in their best interests, that the MHO regs do not specify particular categories of person who must prepare risk assessments and the school’s assessor was sufficiently experienced and that it was neither necessary nor appropriate for the school to provide the claimant with information on the combined weights of the students and wheelchairs which in any event was not causative of the claimant’s injury. It was reasonable for the recorder to prefer the evidence of the school’s experts in the circumstances.


If a first instance Judge misdirects themselves on the correct burden of proof, this does not necessarily entail that their findings of fact were incorrect or can be challenged.

Summarised by Joseph Carr, Anthony Gold Solicitors