Are Drinking Fountains Too Dangerous for Kids? (Surprising Legal Answer!)

Readers — This just in, from jolly old England: Three years ago, a 9-year-old boy horsing around the school playground went to punch his brother, 7, who ducked under the drinking fountain. The older boy, Lewis Pierce, ended up slicing open his thumb on the fountain, and his mom sued the local council (which seems to be the British equivalent of  school district) for about 3000 pounds.

The mom won (yeah, I know), so the school appealed.

At the new trial, according to yesterday’s Daily Mail:

Iain O’Donnell [the school district's lawyer], said schools might have to ban the fountains if Lewis was allowed to keep his pay-out, for fear of other potential claims.

He told the court that schools could never be completely free from hazards. ‘Any part of the premises, for example the corner of a brick wall, could be perceived as sufficiently sharp to cause a laceration if punched,’ he said.

The water fountain was ‘not unduly sharp to normal touch’ and Lewis’s injury was caused by his own ‘spontaneous and unpredictable act’, the Appeal Court heard.

[The Judge] Lady Justice Sharp said schools should take reasonable steps to ensure children’s safety, ‘bearing in mind that children are inclined to lark around’.

But she said they were not under a duty ‘to safeguard children in all circumstances’, adding: ‘The law would part company with common sense if that were the case.’

It’s weird that a victory for common sense should be so thrilling, but that it is. Let’s hope it’s the Sharp heard ’round the world. – L

CAUTION: Stand back 200 feet?

CAUTION: Object may be solid!

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