Monday 18 November 2019

Young rugby player secures €2.75m after head injury in schools game

Lucas Neville’s mother expresses regret at lack of apology from school or hospital

Lucas Neville
Lucas Neville

Tim Healy

A young man who suffered a serious head injury during a schools rugby match has secured €2.75m damages, plus costs, under a settlement approved by the High Court today.

Lucas Neville's mother Michelle told Ms Justice Mary Irvine she was consenting to the offer made but it was a matter of regret to herself and her son they have never received any apology from either his former school or St Vincent's Hospital arising from the injury he had suffered.

"What happened to him and what he went through should not have happened," she said.

Mr Neville had sued his former school, St Michael's College, Ailesbury Road, Dublin, and St Vincent's Healthcare Group, as owner of St Vincent's Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin, arising from the injury in November 2009.

Both defendants had admitted liability but disputed Mr Neville's claim for some €5m damages. A central dispute between the sides related to the fact the €5m claim included a €2m amount for future care.

The case was at hearing for several days before Mr Justice Sean Ryan to assess damages and that assessment hearing was due to resume tomorrow. However, after talks between the sides, Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told today an offer of €2.75, plus costs, had been made.

Bruce Antoniotti SC, for Mr Neville, said while his side considered the value of the case some 10 per cent more than the offer, there was a risk Lucas could get less as the damages aspect was being hard fought and had been running for some two weeks so far.

Counsel said it had been suggested on behalf of the school a sum claimed for the restrospective care of Mrs Neville for her son, including for time spent with him in hospital after he suffered his injuries was "obscene" but that suggestion was later withdrawn. During submissions as to what aids and applicances Lucas would need into the future, there was a disputer over shoelaces, counsel added. 

During the assessment hearing, the court heard Lucas, now aged 22, of Pembroke Lawns, Ballsbridge, Dublin, suffered a head injury during schools rugby training on November 11th 2009 and received some treatment at St Vincent's for that.

He went again to the hospital on November 15th 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.

Had that scan been performed, it would have shown a subdural haemotoma which could have been evacuated and Lucas would not have gone back to school where he suffered the second head injury, Mr Antoniotti said today.

When his mother contacted the school in relation to his injury, she was assured a protocol under which students who suffer head injuries are not permitted participate in contact sports for three weeks would be implemented.

However, on November 28th 2009, some 17 days later, when Lucas 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 suffered a head injury and collapsed on the sideline at the end of that match. The school accepted he should not have been permitted to play, counsel sad.

He was rushed to hospital in a condition described as "life-threatening" but  emergency surgery carried out at Beaumont Hospital saved his life.  He remained in intensive care for some time and spent a number of months in the National rehabilitation Hospital. 

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

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