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Settlement of €1.78m approved for girl who fell from school bus window


Bernadette Nicholson (COURTPIX)

Bernadette Nicholson (COURTPIX)

Bernadette Nicholson (COURTPIX)

A 24-YEAR-old woman who as a young girl sustained a severe head injury when she fell out of the back window of a school bus has settled her High Court action for €1.78m.

Bernadette Nicholson was ten years of age 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.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved a €1.78m settlement for Ms Nicholson, of Milltown, Co Galway.

She had sued Bus Eireann as a result of the accident 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 for treatment.

At a local court hearing a year after the accident, 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 at his home at Ballymara, 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.

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The girls were all taken to hospital in Galway suffering from injuries including grazed elbows and head wounds. Bernadette Nicholson was later transferred to Beaumont Hospital.

Judge Fahy found Bus Eireann guilty of being the owner of a vehicle with a defect that was a danger to the public and that could have been discovered through the exercise of ordinary care.

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

The judge also imposed a fine on Bus Eireann.

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