• In the case of Jolley v Sutton LBC [2000] W.L.R. 1082, it was held that, for purposes of determining whether children’s play activities are reasonably foreseeable in a negligence claim, it is reasonably foreseeable that children’s play, especially of teenagers, will involve the mimicry of adult behaviour.

Facts of the Case

  • D owned and occupied the common grounds of a block of flats.
  • A boat attached to a trailer was abandoned on a grassy part of the grounds where children played, becoming derelict and rotten.
  • No attempt was made to cover or fence off the boat.
  • In December 1988 D placed a sticker on the boat reading ‘Danger; do not touch this vehicle unless you are the owner’ and claimed that the boat would be removed in 7 days if it was not claimed.
  • In February 1990, C (14) and a friend of similar age attempted to repair the boat with plans to sail it.
  • They lifted the front end of the boat onto the trailer in order to repair the hull. This made holes in the structure of the boat.
  • Taking the boat off the trailer, C used a car jack to prop up the boat. The pair worked on the boat on 5 separate occasions until 8th April 1990.
  • While repairing the hull, the boat rocked forward and came down onto C, breaking his back and leaving him paraplegic.


  • Was it reasonably foreseeable that C would lift and prop up the boat?

Held by the House of Lords

  • Finding For C, that C and his friend’s endeavours to repair the boat did fall under the reasonably foreseeable activity of children’s play. It is known, and should be expected, that children’s play will involve the mimicry of adult behaviour, especially for older children/teenagers.

Lord Steyn

  • It is important to remember from The Wagon Mound (No. 1) [1961] A.C. 388 that the precise manner in which an injury occurs, nor the extent has to be foreseeable; it is the source of danger that is important.

Lord Hoffman

  • D has admitted that C was a visitor on their land and, therefore, they had the common duty of care to see that C was reasonably safe when using the grounds for play. They also had a duty to assume that children will be less careful than adults.
  • “In the Court of Appeal, Lord Woolf M.R. observed that there seemed to be no case of which counsel were aware ‘where want of care on the part of D was established but C who was a child had failed to succeed because the circumstances of the accident were not foreseeable.” I would suggest that this is for a combination of three reasons: first, because a finding or admission of want of care on the part of D establishes that it would have cost D no more trouble to avoid the injury which happened than he should in any case have taken; secondly, because in such circumstances D will be liable for the materialisation of even relatively small risks of a different kind, and thirdly, because it has been repeatedly said in cases about children that their ingenuity in finding unexpected ways of doing mischief to themselves and others should never be underestimated. For these reasons, I think that the judge’s broad description of the risk as being that children would ‘meddle with the boat at the risk of some physical injury’ was the correct one to adopt on the facts of this case. The actual injury fell within that description, and I would therefore allow the appeal” [1093A].