'Any other decision would have placed a burden on schools' Educators have expressed relief that a High Court judge this week threw out damages claims against a secondary school over a student's loss of use of an eye. Legal experts say the ruling gives a clearer definition of the extent of duty of care schools owe to students and the level of supervision they should reasonably be expected to provide. Chan Kin-bun, 18, brought the civil case against his classmate Wong Sze-ming and former school, Carmel Alison Lam Foundation Secondary School, Kwai Chung, seeking damages for the loss of use of his left eye. He sustained the injury when an act of 'horseplay' got out of control in the school playground in June 2001. The two boys - both 14 at the time - had been holding a mock sword fight using a ruler known as a T-square, which they had been using in a technical drawing examination the morning of the incident. One of the two rulers - it is unclear whose - shattered, injuring Mr Chan in the left eye and he later lost the use of it. The writ sought damages from Mr Wong on the basis of assault and battery due to a 'deliberate and/or reckless act'. The school was named as a secondary defendant on the grounds of alleged negligence, due to the 'absence of teachers to supervise the students in the playground'. However, High Court Judge John Saunders rejected the battery charge on the basis of Mr Chan's own evidence, which showed he was a participant in the mock fight. 'I am satisfied from the evidence of Mr Chan and Mr Wong that they were engaged in good-natured horseplay,' Judge Saunders wrote in his ruling. 'Each engaged in that horseplay willingly.' Judge Saunders also cleared the school of negligence. The school's duty was 'to ensure that reasonable care is taken of the children', which the school had met by preparing a written manual for the system of supervision, he said. The manual called for four teachers to be patrolling the school grounds. 'There was no evidence that that system was not satisfactory,' Judge Saunders said. 'Bearing in mind that the obligation on the school and teachers does not extend to constant supervision, the evidence does not establish that had a teacher been on patrol in the playground, the incident would necessarily not have occurred.' Vice-principal Lee Tak-wing said the school was pleased with the outcome of the case. 'We feel that the judgment is very fair,' Mr Lee said. 'The school already has sufficient supervision provisions.' Mr Lee said the incident was 'a very unlucky accident', but there were limits to the amount of supervision schools were able to afford. 'It is not possible for any school to have someone on every corner of the campus every moment of the day,' he said. Rick Glofcheski, associate professor of law at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he believed the judge had come to the right decision. 'If he had ruled otherwise, that there was duty of continuous supervision, it would have placed a heavy burden on schools,' he said. Chairman of Hong Kong Association of Heads of Secondary Schools, William Yip Kam-yuen agreed. Although schools did their best to ensure students' safety, they could not guarantee accidents would never happen.