I came across an interesting case the other day when reading industry news items. It concerned a car that was parked within a sports ground got hit by a hockey ball which cracked the windscreen. The sports venue was the property of a school which was hosting an inter-school hockey match, and the car was parked near a tennis court while the owner watched her child take part in the match.
The stray hockey ball was knocked onto the car windscreen by a visiting hockey player who was having a little half-time practice (with permission from the teachers), knocking hockey balls around on the tennis court. When the car owner complained of the damage, a teacher from the host school contacted the visiting hockey player’s parents, and told them that as their child had caused the damage, it was up to them to pay for the repair to the damaged windscreen.
Why should we pay?
The parents were naturally disconcerted by this demand for them to pay for the windscreen repair, and couldn’t agree on the best course of action. They posted their views on a social media site and in essence, those views were as follows
- The visiting school must have third party insurance cover for damage to property, so surely this incident would have been covered on their insurance.
- If you park a car near a sports ground, you are surely aware that you are putting it at risk of damage.
- A tennis court has high fences, so it must have been a pretty impressing shot to have lifted a hockey ball all the way over the fence and onto the car windscreen.
- If the car owner has glass cover on her insurance, she could simply claim for the windscreen repair, job done.
What do the readers think?
The parents asked for the views from other readers. Here is a digest of the replies:
- Don’t be too sure that third party insurance covers this type of incident as, even though the child had permission to practice in the tennis court, it effectively took place on private property and insurance cover can be a complicated issue.
- If the car had been parked next to the hockey pitch and the damage had happened during play, then the driver could be said to be fully aware of the damage risk, however a tennis ball is a lot less likely to damage a windscreen than a hard hockey ball, so parking by a tennis court implies a lower damage risk.
- Yes, it was an impressive shot; maybe they should get the child signed up for a professional team as soon as possible.
- If the driver claims on her insurance, unless she has a fully protected no-claims bonus, she will lose out on her next renewal, and as she is blameless in this incident, that isn’t really fair.
The upshot is that the school is actually liable for any damage caused by its pupils when engaged in officially organised activities on or off the school premises, but the circumstances were slightly complicated by the fact that the hockey practice, although verbally permitted by the teacher, was not part of a formally agreed event. In this case, as a one-off and in order to maintain goodwill all round, the parents paid the school, and the school paid the car owner for a replacement windscreen.
Hopefully, the over-enthusiastic hockey player will now go on to an Olympic career without causing further damage.