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Saturday 30 August 2014

Student who suffered brain injury playing school rugby had to be home schooled

Published 05/03/2014 | 19:02

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Neville (Lucas): with his mother Michelle leaving the High Court where he is taking a legal action against St Michael's College and St Vincent's Hospital.
(4/3/14) ***See High Court Copy. Pic shows: Lucus Neville, age 22, Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, with his mother Michelle, is taking an action for damages against St Michael's College and St Vincent's Hospital for injuries received while playing rugby. Pic: Courtpix
Lucus Neville with his mother Michelle

THE mother of a young student left brain damaged in a schools rugby match has told the High Court she was upset when she was told he could no longer stay in the school he had played for.

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Michelle Neville said her son Lucas was "not himself" and was having difficulties when he returned to St Michael's College, Ailesbury Road, Dublin, when still receiving therapy for his injuries in the academic year 2010-2011.   He wanted to take a couple of Leaving Certificate subjects, Ms Neville said.

She was "upset" when later phoned by the school and told it would be better if he didn't stay, she said.

The court heard he was later home schooled for a time before getting a place in another school.

Mrs Neville was giving evidence in the continuing action by Lucas, now aged 22, of Pembroke Lawns, Ballsbridge, for damages on grounds St Michael's owed him a duty of care and stood "in loco parentis" of him while he engaged in sporting activities on behalf of the school.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan has heard Lucas was called from the sub's bench to play in the last few minutes of a match between St Michael's and St Mary's on November 28, 2009. although he had already suffered concussion two weeks earlier after accidentally receiving a knee in the head during rugby training

After coming on during the game, he collapsed on the side of the pitch after suffering a head injury in the match.

The school had assured his mother after the training incident on November 11, it would implement its protocol whereby students who had suffered head injuries would not be permitted to engage in contact sports for three weeks, the court was told.

Mr Neville has also sued  St Vincent's Healthcare Group as owner of St Vincent's Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin, over alleged negligence in his treatment there.

He attended the hospital with concussion on November 11, 2009, and returned on November 15 with headaches and other difficulties. Among the claims against the hospital were negligence arising from failure to carry out a CT head scan on November 15.

Both the school and the hospital have admitted liability but dispute the €5m level of damages sought.

During cross-examination yesterday on behalf of the school, Eoghan Fitzsimons SC withdrew his suggestion it was "obscene" for the €5m claim to included a claim for monies to pay Mrs Neville for lengthy periods she spent in hospital with her son while he was recovering from surgery and undergoing rehabilitation.

Mrs Neville said hospital staff were very good but "very stretched" and she believed her constant monitoring of Lucas had accelerated improvement in his condition. As his mother, she wanted the best for him, she added. 

She said she did a little part time work and was also in receipt of social welfare payments. Unfortunately, the situation now is they need those payments, she said.

Cross-examined by Michael Gleeson SC, for the hospital, she agreed Lucas, prior to his injuries, acted in films including 32A and Angela's Ashes and had had an agent.

After his injuries, they also received some monies from the Irish Rugby Football Union to help with his education.

At the close of her day long period in the witness box, Mrs Neville was wiping back tears.

Earlier, Mrs Neville told her counsel Denis McCullough SC, while Lucas had suffered serious injuries which continue to leave him cognitively and physically impaired, he has made great progress beyond the expectations of many experts.

After some home schooling, he sat two subjects in the 2011 Leaving Certificate and failed one. He then attended St Andrew's College in the academic year from September 2011, they were "very good with him" and he described that "as the best year of his life", Mrs Neville said.

Having sat the Leaving Cert in 2011, 2012 and 2013, he had passed a total six subjects and is now pursuing a full-time course and also attending an open course two nights weekly in Trinity College. She had "great belief" in him and hoped he would continue to progress.

"I think he's brilliant because he's my son and he has made enormous strides in his recovery."

He continues to have gaps in his memory and she was concerned about that and other issues, including he was bitten by a dog once because he approached an animal most people would have avoided.

They tried to live as normal a life as possible but he didn't socialise as generally understood, partly due to his difficulties and because he doesn't drink alcohol.

The case resumes next Tuesday.

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