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  • Childrens Playcentre


    The plaintiff, Jamie Byrne, born on 26th December, 2005 was injured when present at the defendant’s premises known as Bumblebees, which is a designated children’s play area with slides, climbing areas and ball pools. Adjacent to the children’s play area was a designated area for toddlers or younger children with ball pools and a less challenging slide. His granny was at the centre that day. She could not have anticipated the injury that was to befall Jamie, but could the defendant proprietor reasonably have been expected to do so either?

    Access to the defendant’s premise was by payment and there were some notices at the door to the effect that children must be supervised by parents or guardians. There were coffee facilities and chairs available for adults in the vicinity of the play area. Bumblebees is a play area and not a crèche.

    The day of the accident

    In the toddler’s area there were series of what were described as “walls” which were foam bricks covered in plastic of some 14inches high against the ground or 12inches if there is a mat on one side. These walls divide different sub areas of the toddler’s area. On 28th October, 2008, the plaintiff was present in Bumblebees with his grandmother, Mrs. Breslin, in whose care he was at the time. When the plaintiff, Jamie, was going from one part of the toddlers or young children’s area into another, he climbed onto one of the “walls” as previously described and jumped down causing an injury to himself consisting in the main of a fracture of his femur.

    The allegation against the Defendant

    The plaintiff alleged, through his father and next friend, in a Proceedings titled Jamie Byrne, A Minor suing by his Father and next Friend, Anthony Byrne –v – Stephen Bell trading as Bumblebees (Decision issued by Mr Justice Kevin Cross of the High Court on the 8th February 2013) that these injuries were caused by reason of a negligence of the defendants in the layout of the premises and their failure to have any adequate supervision or intervention to prevent danger, or the accident such as occurred.

    The issue for the Court

    The only issue was whether Jamie’s injuries were caused or contributed to by reason of any negligence or fault of the defendant. Clearly, Jamie himself was in no way to blame for the accident due to his tender years and neither was it alleged, or indeed could it be alleged, that Jamie’s very careful grandmother, Mrs. Breslin, was in any way to blame.
    The judge had the benefit of watching the CCTV footage which showed Jamie going from time to time over one of the “walls” into the area designated for toddlers. The judge accepted the defendant`s evidence that two members of staff were present in the premises at the time. Jamie was seen in the CCTV climbing onto a “wall” which divided the toddler’s area into sections and he appeared to jump down onto what was a matted area, a distance of some 12inches and it was there that he was injured. His grandmother was seen rushing towards him.

    Submissions for the Plaintiff

    Mr. Gavigan, senior counsel on behalf of the plaintiff complained that though Jamie was under the primary care of his grandmother, Mrs. Breslin, there should have been some supervision to ensure that toddlers would not go from one area to another over the “wall” and also supervision to remove any balls that might have escaped from the ball pools and to prevent the plaintiff going into the area reserved for larger children. Mr. Gavigan also complained that the design of the area was defective in that it should have been possible to go from the front area for very young infants into the toddler area without having to go over or climb over the wall and that the supervision ought to have stopped Jamie going into the toddler’s area in the manner that he did. There was not however any direct evidence that Jamie landed on any loose balls.

    The Judge`s Decision

    The judge asked if someone had been standing by the wall, Mrs. Breslin or an employee, would they have stopped Jamie from jumping? He did not believe that they would. Mrs. Breslin was clearly a very loving grandmother who saw Jamie jumping earlier and did not intervene. Even had a supervisor seen a ball on the ground, were one there, would they have stopped Jamie jumping? The judge did not believe so. He did not see or believe there was any danger in the premises relevant to the accident that occurred. He believed that the premises were well run and generally safe.

    Very importantly, Mr Justice Cross stated that one cannot ensure against all mishaps or accidents to young children. Accidents, injuries, do happen from time to time and do so without any fault.

    The issue in this case was whether the plaintiff established any fault for his injuries on the part of the defendant and unfortunately, in the judge`s view, he failed to do so and accordingly the judge dismissed the case.

    The Lesson to be learned?

    Just because a child is injured in a Playcentre just not mean that the Playcentre is to blame. This matter is guided by the Occupier`s liability Act 1995 which requires the occupier to ensure that the premises are safe for the purpose intended and, where invitees, as in this instance are concerned, there were no unusual dangers of which the proprietor knew or ought to have known. Such unusual dangers did not arise in this case. A sensible Decision by the Court.