11 Year Old Successfully Sued Following School Ground Horseplay
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with fault for a school-ground injury.
In this week’s case (Gu v. Frisen) the 11 year old plaintiff was injured in 2008 when she was carrying a friend, piggyback-style, during recess. At the same time the defendant pushed the girls, with no intetion of ill-will but rather “to make the girls laugh”. Unfortunately the Plaintiff fell over and broke her arm.
The Plaintiff sued the Defendant, his parents and the School District. The Claims were all dismissed except the claim against the 11 year old defendant. In finding him legally responsible for the injury Mr. Justice Schultes provided the following reasons:
 I am satisfied that Liam did not put his mind to the risk before he jogged up behind Elizabeth and pushed her. The question is whether, objectively viewed, he should have.
 He was 11 years old at the time of this incident. There was no evidence that he was of less than normal intelligence for his age. As to his experience, making the assumption most favourable to his position, which is that comparing him to children of the same “experience” is broad enough to include his maturity and impulsivity, I think that a child with those similar attributes would still have foreseen that, if he were running at a fast jog, even the gentle pushing from behind of another child who was being carried piggyback risked both the top and bottom person falling over and being injured in some way in the fall. It is a matter of the physical reaction of human bodies to the application of force — a kind of knowledge that is acquired by all children on the playground at a very young age.
 The fact that the injury to Jacqueline turned out to be more serious than a child in Liam’s circumstances might have anticipated does not undermine liability. Madam Justice Bennett summarized the applicable law in Hussack v. Chilliwack School District No. 33, 2011 BCCA 258, at para. 71:
 It is not necessary for the plaintiff to show that the precise injury or the full extent of the injury was reasonably foreseeable. What he must show is that the type or kind of injury was reasonably foreseeable: Hughes v. Lord Advocate,  UKHL 1; Jolley v. Sutton London Borough Council,  UKHL 31; Ontario (Minister of Highways) v. Côté,  1 S.C.R. 595.
 This mishap is unlike the rather freakish accidents in which the liability of older children and adolescents for negligence was denied, based on a lack of foreseeability, in McHale v. Watson (1966), 115 C.L.R. 199 (Aus. H.C.) (a thrown piece of welding rod ricocheting off a post) and Mullin v. Richards,  1 All E.R. 920 (C.A.) (a piece of a plastic ruler breaking off during play sword-fighting). In both cases, childish horseplay led to serious eye injuries, but the defendants’ original ill-advised actions set in motion further physical effects that the judges concluded could not have been anticipated.
 This case, I have said, required only the rudimentary foresight that a person who is pushed from behind might fall over and in doing so get injured, something that was well within the capacities of a child in Liam’s situation.
 As a result I find him liable for the accident