Basildon pupil who nearly drowned in swimming lesson awarded £2m

Annie Woodland with her partner Sam Hill and their son Joey Image copyright The Woodland family
Image caption Annie Woodland now lives near Blackpool with her partner and son

A woman who nearly drowned during a school swimming lesson has been awarded a £2m payout.

Whitmore Primary School pupil Annie Woodland, who is now 26, was pulled from a swimming pool in Basildon in 2000 but had suffered brain damage.

A High Court judge ruled that a teacher and a lifeguard had failed to realise she was in trouble.

Essex County Council will pay two-thirds of the £2m, with the lifeguard liable for the remainder.

In the High Court last year, Mr Justice Blake ruled lifeguard Debbie Maxwell and swimming teacher Paula Burlinson should have noticed Miss Woodland was drowning sooner than they did.

He concluded the county council was liable for their negligence, although neither woman was employed directly by the authority.

Image copyright The Woodland family
Image caption Annie Woodland, pictured with her two brothers, says she suffered "years of depression"

Miss Woodland now lives in the Blackpool area with her partner Sam Hill and their 13-month-old son, Joey. She suffers memory problems, fatigue and poor balance and is unable to work.

"If I didn't have Joey I would probably be in quite a bad way still," Miss Woodland said. "I have had years of depression, but I just look at him and I am happy.

"I'll never get over what happened, but I've got to move on with my life now and make the best of it for his sake."

Image copyright Brendan Pittaway/Pannone Solicitors
Image caption Annie Woodland's parents Ian Woodland and Alison Morris pursued the claim to the High Court

Her mother, Alison, who launched the legal case alongside her husband Ian, said her daughter was a "happy, confident little girl who absolutely thrived" at the Basildon school before she nearly died.

"This was never for any financial gain, it was to stop it happening to anyone else," she said.

An Essex County Council spokesman said the authority accepted the ruling of the judge and has agreed to pay two-thirds of the £2m settlement.

The BBC has been unable to contact Ms Maxwell for a comment.

Miss Woodland's lawyers said the settlement was agreed in February and finalised in the past few weeks.

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