Carmarthenshire County Council v Lewis – Case Summary

Carmarthenshire County Council v Lewis

House of Lords

Citations: [1955] AC 549; [1955] 2 WLR 517; [1955] 1 All ER 565; (1955) 119 JP 230; (1955) 99 SJ 167; [1955] CLY 2194.


The claimant was the wife of a man killed while driving his lorry on a public road. A four year old boy escaped from a nearby school, and ran out onto the road. The boy had been able to escape because the teacher looking after him was distracted by another child injuring themselves. In addition, the gate between the school yard and the street had been left unlocked. The man swerved out of the way to avoid the boy, crashed, and died. The claimant alleged that the school teacher had been negligent. They sued the defendants, who were the council who employed the teacher and ran the school.

  1. What standard of care is owed by teachers in relation to harm caused by children under their care?

The House of Lords held in favour of the claimant. The teacher was not negligent, since perfect supervision of children is impossible and it was reasonable to attend to an injured child for a brief moment. However, the fact that the child had been able to get from the yard onto the road because the gate was unlocked indicated negligence on the part of the school.

This Case is Authority For…

Teachers are held to the standard of a reasonably careful parent looking after their own children. This does not require perfect supervision of the child.


Lord Reid commented that the duty owed by teachers and parents to third parties would normally be discharged by reasonable steps to keep the child safe. Such steps would normally also ensure the safety of third parties.