Tuesday 20 August 2019

Vitriol after 'Luas surfing' payout has whiff of snobbery

There were 54 incidents of tram surfing recorded on Luas trams between 2005 and 2010. Stock picture
There were 54 incidents of tram surfing recorded on Luas trams between 2005 and 2010. Stock picture
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

For a woeful mistake she made when she was 13, a young woman who gave birth two weeks ago is a pariah, terrified to leave her own home.

Earlier this week, Rebecca Kelly (20) secured a €550,000 court award for injuries she sustained whilst 'Luas surfing'.

Ms Kelly was 13 in 2010 when she and a friend jumped on the side of the tram as it left Fatima station - that's 13, not 18, or 23 or 38. The prank, like many teenage kicks, backfired spectacularly.

After falling onto the tracks, Ms Kelly suffered a serious head injury, spending a month in the National Rehabilitation Hospital.

She still bears the scars of that subdural haematoma in the form of concentration and memory problems.

All hell broke loose when it emerged Ms Kelly had reached a settlement with Veolia, the operators of the Luas.

And the mob went into meltdown following reports that Ms Kelly - who lives in a social housing complex in Dublin's inner city - had initially sought €4m.

This sum was a reduction on the €10m that an initial actuarial assessment claimed Veolia might be exposed to. Ms Kelly's lawyers had told her she didn't stand a chance of securing €4m, not least because of her own contributory negligence.

Personal injuries cases settle for all sorts of complex reasons - 90pc of cases don't even make it to court.

But in the rush to excoriate Ms Kelly, the mob have overlooked that Veolia agreed to a settlement after mediation - even though a judge remarked that Ms Kelly may have ended up with nothing if the case had gone to trial. Ms Kelly admitted her contributory negligence, arguing it was lessened by her tender age at the time. Veolia did not admit any liability. Critically, however, the company was aware from 2005 that 'Luas surfing' was an issue. That changes everything: Veolia was on notice of such risky behaviours that might give rise to injury - or worse.

There were 54 incidents of tram surfing recorded on Luas trams between 2005 and 2010. Veolia had set up cameras to monitor the risk - cameras that were not functioning on that fateful day - and had taken steps to prevent the practice.

We cannot legislate against stupidity and children cannot be held to the same standard as adults.

But I can't help thinking that the vitriol directed against Ms Kelly is not because of her teenage folly, but because she is deemed by the mob to be from the wrong side of the proverbial social tracks.

Irish Independent

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