Sunday 15 December 2019

€1.78m for woman injured in fall from school bus as child

Bernadette Nicholson (COURTPIX)
Bernadette Nicholson (COURTPIX)

Tim Healy

A woman who suffered a severe head injury when she fell out of the back window of a school bus as a young girl has settled her High Court action for €1.78m.

Bernadette Nicholson was 10 years old when the accident happened in 2001 as she and three school friends fell through the rear window of a bus bringing them home from school in Co Galway.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross yesterday approved a €1.78m settlement for Ms Nicholson, now 24, from Milltown, Co Galway.

She had sued Bus Eireann as a result of the incident on January 22, 2001.

The judge said he had no hesitation in approving the ruling and said the young woman, who is studying business at third level, had made a remarkable recovery from appalling circumstances.

She was a back seat passenger and fell through the rear window as the bus was moving.

She was unconscious after the accident and transferred from University College Hospital, Galway, to Beaumont in Dublin - which specialises in head injuries - for treatment.

At a court hearing a year after the incident, Judge Mary Fahy found Bus Eireann was fully responsible for the accident.

One of the other passengers, Blaithin McWalters, told the court she had filed onto the bus with her friends after school. She sat in the back seat "because it is the cool seat".

After the bus stopped to let one boy off, the girls decided to stand up on the seat, link arms, and sway against the movement of the bus as it rounded corners.

Blaithin found herself on the right-hand edge of a group of six or seven girls.

She noticed that a piece of rubber was hanging down from the top right corner of the window.

"The next thing I heard something and I looked back and I saw Sarah hit her head off the top of the bus," she said.

Four girls - Sarah Lawlor, Claire McGrath, Bernadette Nicholson and Saoirse McWalters - fell onto the road as the back window fell out and crashed onto the road.

They were all taken to hospital in Galway suffering from injuries including grazed elbows and head wounds.

Judge Fahy found Bus Eireann guilty of being the owner of a vehicle with a defect that was a danger to the public.

She did not accept that pressure by the children alone would have been enough to cause the window to slip out.

The judge also fined Bus Eireann.

A spokesman for Bus Eireann last night said it regretted any harm caused to Ms Nicholson: "All our school vehicles now have safety belts fitted. These secure all passengers on board."

Irish Independent

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