Michelle qualified in 2003. Michelle joined Essex County Council in 2002 having previously worked in private practice specialising in personal injury/civil litigation and child care law.
Michelle's experience in working within child care law has allowed her to obtain considerable experience with regards to public law proceedings. She now specialises in acting for local authorities in claims involving allegations against social services department (including claims of child sexual abuse) and educational negligence.
Michelle acts on a wide range of high value personal injury claims including multi party litigation, fatal accident claims including claims where civil proceedings are commenced after prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive, stress at work claims and industrial disease claims including RSI and asbestos related claims.
- Advising local authorities with regards to allegations against Social Services for failures to discharge their duties of care to children (including claims of child sexual abuse/neglect). Experience includes litigating claims in excess of £4million.
- Advising local authorities in claims involving educational negligence including litigating matters to trial.
- Advising in respect of industrial disease litigation specialising in asbestos related claims including advising insurer client on policy terms in respect of such claims.
- Advising local authorities in respect of claims involving catastrophic injuries in particular spinal and neurological injuries and claims under Fatal Accident Act.
- Advising clients in stress at work claims.
- Tree subsidence litigation.
- Extensive experience of predominately High Court litigation but also County Court litigation.
Notable Recent Cases
Annie Rachel Woodland-v-Essex County Council and Others
The Court of Appeal has confirmed that a school can delegate to an independent contractor its common law duty to take reasonable care for a pupil. In Woodland-v-Essex County Council  EWCA 239 the claimant suffered brain damage when she nearly drowned during a school swimming lesson. Essex County Council was responsible for the school but it contracted with an external swimming lesson provider to supply swimming lessons to the pupils. The swimming teacher and the life guard were employees of the external provider rather than the school. The claimant alleged that Essex County Council nevertheless remained liable for any negligence on the part of the swimming teacher and the life guard because the duty it owed the child was non-delegable. In the High Court Langstaff J struck out the allegation that the duty was non-delegable and the Court of Appeal dismissed the claimant's appeal, holding that:
- In general the duty to take reasonable care can be discharged by entrusting its performance to an apparently competent independent contactor.
- There was no justification for holding the schools duty to be non-delegable where injury was suffered in an environment, and whilst engaged in an activity, which was not under the control of school staff.
The matter is now proceeding to the Supreme Court.
Charles -v- Essex County Council
Claim for injury relating to an accident when a motorcyclist alleges he skidded on ice.
Cyclist sustained permanent paralysis from the chest down
Issue over Local Authority's obligation to grit a road where the Authority's Maintenance Plan provided there was no obligation to grit. Claimant discontinued claim after proceedings issued.
Mason -v- Essex County Council
High value claims involving four claimants regarding claims of historic abuse litigated in the High Court.
Young -v- Essex County Council
A failure to educate claim against the Authority litigated in the High Court. Claimant withdrew his claim prior to trial listed for 8 days, following a denial of liability and robust defence.
Hagland -v- Essex County Council
Claim against the Authority in respect of fatality involving a tree overhanging the highway. The claim was brought against Essex County Council and landowner. The case involved issues over ownership of tree and powers and duties of a Highway Authority in respect of the relevant tree. The claim was successfully defended by the Authority. The landowner agreed to pay the Claimant's claim and the Authority's costs of defending the claim.