Boy (10) in €11.5m pay out after crash

Tim Healy

A BOY who has been left quadriplegic after his Mum crashed her crashed her car on the school run has been awarded €11.5m to ensure his lifelong care needs.

High Court Judge Mary Irvine said that the courts are "gambling" with the welfare of those who suffer catastrophic injuries because of the failure to legislate to ensure lifelong care needs will be me.

Judge Irvine called for "urgent and prompt" attention to the need for laws providing for periodic payments in such cases when approving the lump sum settlement, the highest ever made in a personal injuries action, in the case of Cullen Kennedy (10), of Corheen, Loughrea, Co Galway.

"The reality is the courts don't know when people are going to die," she said. "We are gambling every day."

Cullen suffered devastating injuries when, the court heard, his mother Margaret suffered a "momentary lapse of concentration" when distracted by him while driving him to school on May 5, 2008.

Her uninsured car veered on to the wrong side of the road and collided head-on with another car.

The other driver suffered minor injuries, Mrs Kennedy suffered some injuries but Cullen, who was restrained in a booster seat in the back of the car, suffered very severe injuries after his head hit the front windscreen. As a result, he is quadriplegic and will require 24 hour care for life.

Cullen's mother and grandmother play a large part in providing that care at his mother's rented home and are supported by nurses and special needs assistants who assist Cullen, who has no mental impairmment and was described as a "lively and vivacious" child in attending school, the court heard.


Cullen, suing through his grandmother Monica Kennedy, had brought proceedings against his mother and the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland. Under the agreed settlement,the MIBI will pay the judgment sum.

While stressing the settlement in this case was "excellent" as it was expected to meet all Cullen's lifelong care needs, Ms Justice Irvine said the continuing failure to enact laws providing for period payment orders involved injustice as some catastrophically injured persons would run out of funds for their care.

A second, though lesser injustice due to the absence of legislation, was that some catastrophically injured persons would die earlier than expected resulting in a "windfall" for their next of kin, she said.

The judge noted a Working Group on Periodic Payment Orders was set up by the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns three-and a-half-years ago, chaired by Mr Justice John Quirke and including herself, and had reported unanimously in October 2010 that legislation was required to allow cases be settled on the basis of PPOs.

It was recommended that catastrophically injured persons would get a sum to be paid annually for the rest of their lives, a system that would guarantee their care, she said.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Quirke and herself felt very strongly about this matter, she added.