Monday 22 December 2014

Ex-schools rugby player gets €2.75m over brain injury

Tim Healy

Published 25/03/2014 | 02:30

Lucas Neville outside court with his mother Michelle Neville yesterday. Photo: Courtpix

The mother of a young man who received €2.75m damages after a head injury during a schools rugby match said that neither the school nor the hospital have apologised.

Lucas Neville, now aged 22, suffered a head injury during rugby training on November 11, 2009, and played in a match 17 days later.

He again suffered a head injury and collapsed on the sidelines.

The school accepted that he should not have been permitted to play at that time, the High Court was told during the hearing to assess damages.

He was left with a permanent brain injury with serious adverse implications for his future educational and employment prospects, the court was also told.

Yesterday Mr Neville secured the damages after he sued his former school St Michael's College, Ailesbury Road, Dublin, and St Vincent's Healthcare Group.

Mr Neville's mother Michelle said it was a matter of regret to herself and her son they had never received any apology from either his former school or St Vincent's Hospital.

"What happened to him and what he went through should not have happened," she said. "An apology would be nice."

The defendants were not in court when the settlement was ruled yesterday.

Both defendants had earlier admitted liability but disputed Mr Neville's claim for €5m damages.

A central dispute between the sides related to the fact the original claim included a €2m amount for future care.

The case had been at hearing for two weeks to assess damages, and that hearing was due to resume tomorrow.

After talks between the sides, Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told yesterday an offer of €2.75m, plus costs, had been made.

Ms Justice Irvine told Mrs Neville that while no money would ever give her son back what he should not have lost, the court trusted his very experienced lawyers.

Mrs Neville said she also trusted their lawyers but had some concerns whether the amount would meet all his future medical and educational needs.

The judge also said the litigation process did not require any party to apologise – and the court could not take the absence of an apology into account.

The way a trial was managed might sometimes be taken into account, she added.

During the assessment hearing, the court was told Mr Neville, of Pembroke Lawns, Ballsbridge, Dublin, had received some treatment at St Vincent's for the earlier head injury of November 11, 2009

He went again to the hospital on November 15 because he was suffering headaches and eye problems.

His mother asked that a scan be carried out of his head, but said she was assured that was not necessary.

DISPUTE

Had that scan been performed it would have shown a subdural haematoma – which could have been evacuated – and Mr Neville would not have gone back to school where he suffered the second head injury during the match, said Mr Neville's counsel Bruce Antoniotti.

When his mother contacted the school in relation to his November 11 injury, she was assured of a protocol that students who suffered head injuries were not permitted to participate in contact sports for three weeks.

However, on November 28, 2009, some 17 days later, when Mr Neville was on the subs bench during a match between St Michael's and St Mary's, he was called on to play for the final minutes of that match.

He again suffered a head injury and collapsed on the sidelines at the final whistle.

The school accepted he should not have been permitted to play, the court heard.

Mr Antoniotti yesterday said while his side considered the value of the case was some 10pc more than the offer, there was a risk his client could get less as the damages aspect was being hard fought.

Counsel said it had been suggested on behalf of the school that a sum claimed for retrospective care, including for time spent with him in hospital after he suffered his injuries was "obscene" – but that suggestion was later withdrawn.

Mrs Neville had provided care beyond what anyone, even a mother, could be expected to provide, counsel said.

During submissions as to what aids and appliances Mr Neville would need into the future, there was a dispute over shoelaces, counsel added.

The judge approved the €2.75m settlement with a payment out of €100,000 for the care provided by Mrs Neville to date, plus special damages of €15,000.

Irish Independent

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