School liable for damages after boy slips, falls on wet floor

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Published Apr 16, 2024


A slip and fall on a wet toilet floor at school which caused a then 9-year-old boy to sustain head injuries after he hit his head on the side of a urinal is to cost the Northern Cape education MEC dearly.

The court has found it liable for the damages suffered by the child.

The boy’s father turned to the Northern Cape High Court sitting in Kimberley to claim damages, as he felt his son’s fall was due to the negligence of the school where he was a learner at the time.

The child’s father said it was the school’s duty to ensure that the toilet floor was cleaned regularly, so that the wet floor did not pose a danger to his son and other children.

The education department on the other hand has denied negligence, saying that the toilets are cleaned after school.

The child testified that he asked a teacher permission to go to the toilet during class.

After urinating, he tucked in his shirt, fastened his pants, and stepped off the cement block at the urinal. As he stepped off, he slipped in water and fell and hit his head (behind his right ear) against the urinal.

The boy said he lay there for a while, rubbing his head, then got up and walked slowly back to his class. He felt “drunk” or “dizzy” and a little sore, but he was not in pain.

After school adjourned, he walked slowly and went to sit under a tree to wait for the bus. He did not play with his friends as he was still feeling dizzy. His last memory was of sitting under the tree watching the children play, and he could not remember getting on or off the bus, he said.

His first recall thereafter was when he was in the ambulance in front of the hospital.

A cleaner in the employ of the school testified that he cleaned the boys’ toilets after hours and prior to school commencing.

He said the toilets were always very dirty, and the floors very wet. He said there were water stains on the floor, which were caused by the urinals often being clogged with paper and rubbish, causing water to spill over.

The school claimed the boy’s injuries were from a “mild stroke”, but the doctor who treated him diagnosed an arterial head injury which did fit in with the boy falling with his head against an object.

The doctor said the result of the injury would not be immediate, but would take time to develop. The doctor was adamant that the boy did not have a stroke before he fell, as he could still stand up and walk outside.

He said the boy’s cerebral artery was most likely stretched as a result of the fall, which caused the blood to divert into the cavity, thereby reducing the blood flow to the brain.

Judge Almé Stanton said it was not in dispute that the boy fell, but whether he slipped and fell as a result of water on the toilet floor.

“I am persuaded that the probabilities are overwhelming that there was water on the floor, which constitutes an omission by the Department of Education,” she said.

The judge came to this conclusion after the boy explained exactly how he fell, as well as the evidence from the cleaner who said the toilet floor was usually wet after the boys used it during school hours.

The judge said the doctor’s diagnosis also fit in with the boy’s injuries.

In holding the department liable for his injuries, she ordered that it had to pay the boy’s father the amount of damages he can prove his son had suffered.

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Pretoria News