Schoolboy eye horror 'could have been prevented'

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An accident in which a schoolboy's eye was punctured with a paintbrush could have been reasonably prevented, a judge ruled.

Thomas Brown, aged 10 at the time, was painting a large sheet of paper on a classroom floor at Ladywell Primary in Motherwell when he was nudged and fell on to another pupil's brush, causing "catastrophic" brain damage.

His father, Christopher Brown, is seeking damages from North Lanarkshire Council following the incident in April 2003.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled he can proceed with the case after establishing that the practice of painting on the floor with long, pointed brushes created a "foreseeable risk" of injury.

Lady Dorrian said in her opinion, published today, teachers should have had regard to the fact that pupils would be working in close proximity, moving around, and kneeling while using the sharp tools.

The judge said: "It is clear that no consideration was given by the teachers to the role which the brush might play in the activity which they were setting up.

"In these circumstances I think that the risk of some sort of penetrating injury from the brush was a real and foreseeable one.

"In the exercise of reasonable care those involved should have had regard to all the factors I have mentioned.

"In fact it is quite clear that the teachers had regard to some of these but not others."

Thomas took part in the art project in an open plan classroom under the supervision of two teachers.

The children were preparing scenery for a school show and were working on four sheets of A1 paper that had been taped together.

He was kneeling over the picture when another child banged into him from behind, causing him to lose his balance and fall on to the end of a third pupil's brush.

Lady Dorrian said: "A reasonable person in the position of the teachers would have taken steps to prevent that foreseeable risk of harm to Thomas.

"This could have been by the provision of different brushes, which seem to have been available for infants.

"It could readily have been by allowing the work to be done at a desk.

"The evidence was that the children were filling in something which had already been drawn on the paper.

"I see no reason why that could not have been done individually by them.

"There was no persuasive reason why the task could not have been done at desks.

"I accordingly propose to sustain the first plea in law for the pursuer."