Wednesday 24 January 2018

Music student who suffered brain injury on way to carol service awarded €6.8million

Noel McGarrigle leaving court. His daughter Hazel had sued through him following a motor traffic accident. PIC: COURTPIX
Noel McGarrigle leaving court. His daughter Hazel had sued through him following a motor traffic accident. PIC: COURTPIX

Tim Healy

A MUSIC student who suffered a devastating brain injury after her car was rear ended on the way to a school Christmas carol service has settled her High Court action for €6.8million.

Hazel McGarrigle who was a masters student of the Cork School of Music, five years later, remains minimally conscious, cannot speak or walk and needs 24 hour care. Ms McGarrigle's visual perception is also restricted and she can only follow pictures, but her hearing is intact.

Approving the €6.8million settlement Mr Justice Sean Ryan said it was a very satisfactory settlement and he praised the "heroism" of her family in the way they have looked after her.

He said Hazel had suffered and her career had been shattered, but the settlement was "a very satisfactory outcome to a terrible tragedy."

In a statement afterwards the McGarrigle family said the tragic consequences of this accident for Hazel and her family could not be expressed in words.

"Our sole concern is that Hazel obtain optimum care in her own home. We intend to continue to care for her at home. This settlement will secure that goal and we hope it will ensure that Hazel can obtain all the care, therapy and assistance she needs and deserves for the rest of her life," it added.

Ms McGarrigle, now aged 30, of Drumstevlin House, Donegal town, had sued through her father Noel McGarrigle the driver of the other car Breda Broderick of Sycamores, Classes Lake, Ovens, Co Cork as a result of the accident at Carrr's Hill, Carrigaline, Co Cork on December 15, 2009.

It was claimed the other car collided with the rear of the vehicle propelling Ms McGarrigle's car in to a vehicle directly in front.

At the time Ms McGarrigle was second in line to turn out on to a main road. The court heard her car was struck from behind and pushed in to the back of the car in front.

The case was before the court for assessment of damages only as liability was conceded.

Eugene Gleeson SC said Ms McGarrigle suffered devastating inter crainial injuries  and was taken to Cork University Hospital intensive care.

A CT scan showed a right sided subdural haematoma with bleeding in the brain.  She was in 2010 airlifted to Letterkenny General Hospital and her family began looking after at home after that.

Counsel said while Ms McGarrigle was unfortunate in the accident she has been singularly fortunate in the family she has. He said her devoted parents and two brothers have cared for Hazel ever since.

He said the dedication of her family is remarkable and her 34 year old brother who worked in Montenegro had returned to Ireland with his family to become her carer along with his parents Noel and Noeleen.

Mr Gleeson said at the time of the accident, Hazel, who was studying for her masters in music was on the way to conduct a carol service.

"She was a giver who was always organising music events. She was dedicated to music," he said.

Hazel's mother Noeleen McGarrigle told the court during a four day hearing  her daughter was absorbed in music and and loved it from an early age. She planned to  to go on to do a PhD in music.

She said she talked to Hazel one hour before the accident.

"It was a very different phonecall over an hour later . They did not give us many details. We gathered it was very bad and we drove to Cork, " she said.

The McGarrigle family stayed by Hazel's bedside and twice Mrs McGarrigle said they were told their daughter might not make it.

Hazel now she said turns her head when she hears a member of her family and recognises voices and smiles.

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