Trustees frequently ask us whether they would be personally liable if someone is injured on a course run by a trust where they are a trustee. For example, imagine a youth focussed trust and they employ Jane, she takes a group of children on a hiking trip. During this a child is injured in an accident. Could the parents of the child make a claim against the trust or even the trustees personally? Let’s look at what could happen in New Zealand.
The role of ACC
The accident to the child would most likely be covered by the Accident and Compensation Act 2001 as a personal injury. This means that the parents would be prohibited from bringing independent proceedings against the trust and the trustees. Therefore, trustees are protected from third party claims relating to accidental personal injury where ACC would cover the accident. For more on this see ACC’s guidance here. This would not be the case in other countries where a claim might be possible.
What about WorkSafe?
Trustees may have proceeding brought against them by WorkSafe New Zealand if they find that the trustees breached the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. This is because the trustees are ultimately in control. WorkSafe may pursue action against trustees if they find the trust failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and others, such as those attending courses they organise. For example, in 2017, WorkSafe accepted an enforceable undertaking from a Trust Board following its investigation into an accident in which students were injured during a school production. The accident occurred during Saint Kentigern School’s performance of Sweeney Todd when two students were hospitalized after their necks were slit with a sharp shaving razor which was wrapped in duct tape. Despite the numerous incidents there was a failure to report and investigate these incidents. WorkSafe launched an investigation into the incident and concluded that the school failed in its duty to students and the school Trust Board accepted these findings.
Trustees may be liable if they are found to have breached their duties to ensure the health and safety of those they are responsible for. For more on these issues and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, as it applied to PCBU’s (a person conducting a business or undertaking) see our article here. Ultimately it may be wise for trusts to get a specialist Health and Safety advisor to provide guidance in this area.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should contact your lawyer about your specific situation. We would be happy to assist you, please feel free to contact Steven Moe firstname.lastname@example.org