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Schoolboy who had foot-long paintbrush pierce eye in freak accident wins compensation

Thomas Brown was injured at a primary school in Motherwell seven years ago

Compensation: Thomas Brown, pictured with his mum Margaret
© Press Team

A teenager who suffered a horrific injury after a freak classroom accident seven years ago is set to receive compensation after a judge ruled that the school authorities were to blame.

Thomas Brown, 18, was a primary school pupil in Motherwell when a paintbrush pierced his eye causing "catastrophic" brain damage which has left him disabled.

Dad Christopher Brown of Birrens Road, Motherwell, raised a civil action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh demanding damages of £2.5m from North Lanarkshire Council. They had not done enough to ensure that Thomas was not exposed to unnecessary risk, he claimed.

The local authority countered by saying there was no report of any similar accident in any school in the United Kingdom, either before or since.

Judge Lady Dorrian heard that Thomas was ten years old when he and classmates at Ladywell School, Motherwell, were working on scenery for a school show in April 2003.

They were kneeling or crouching on the floor painting four sheets of paper which had been stuck together. The paper was too big to fit on a desk. A girl stood up and bumped into Thomas as she did so, causing him to topple over and fall onto the paintbrush of a third child.

The pointed end of the foot-long thin brush went into his left eye.

Thomas spent a month in hospital. The accident has left him with no sight in that eye and has also suffered "a number of permanent disabilities", the court heard, including poor concentration and memory and significant fatigue.

In the action it is alleged that the chances of Thomas finding a job are remote and it is unlikely he will be able to live independently in future.

Lady Dorrian was told that since the accident the local authority had issued a "safety flash" warning, stopping children working on the floor and banning the use of long paintbrushes.

Mr Brown claims that the "risk assessment" carried out after his son was hurt should have been done before the accident, and could have prevented the tragedy. He has also claimed that those supervising the class at the time were at fault.

In her written ruling issued today, Lady Dorrian notes "Foreseeability is not the same as frequency - an accident might rarely happen yet nevertheless be foreseeable. When one looks at the whole circumstances of the use of the brush a real risk of injury emerges as foreseeable.

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

The judge said the work could have been done on separate sheets of paper with safer paintbrushes. "There was no persuasive reason why the task could not have been done at desks."

Today's ruling means the two sides are due to come back to court to decide on how much the local authority should pay out.

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