Lucas Neville v St Michael's College & St Vincent's University Hospital.

The High Court approved a settlement on the 24th March 2014 in the sum of 2.75 million on behalf of a 22 year old Dublin man, Lucas Neville, who had suffered a severe brain injury during the course of a rugby match against St Mary’s College, Rathmines in November 2009.  The settlement was reached following the commencement of the action before Mr Justice Sean Ryan on the 4th March 2014 which was being heard as an assessment of damages, both Defendants having admitted liability for the Plaintiff’s injuries on the first day of the trial.

Lucas was a pupil at St Michael’s College, Ailesbury Road, Dublin 4 at the time of his injuries in his final year. He suffered a blow to his head in rugby training on 11th November 2009 which caused him to briefly lose consciousness and require his attendance at the Emergency Department of St Vincent’s Hospital. He was assessed by the staff and discharged home to the care of his mother with standard head injury advice. His condition worsened to such an extent that his mother brought him back to hospital 4 days later as he was complaining of a severe headache, anorexia and nausea. She requested that a scan be carried out but instead the SHO on duty diagnosed him as suffering from sinusitis and discharged him home with a prescription for antibiotics and Sudafed. Lucas remained at home off school for the following week and on his return to school his mother contacted the school to advise them of his return and that he was not to return to contact sports. She was reassured by the school that her wishes would be adhered and that in any event, St Michael’s College own protocols required any pupil who had suffered a head injury or concussion to not participate in any contact sports for a period of 3 weeks. This was in accordance with the 2008 IRB consensus statement on head injuries produced following an international conference in Zurich.

On the 28th November 2009, only 17 days following his first injury, Lucas was selected as a replacement for a match for the 2nd XV against St Mary’s College. He advised his mother that his coaches had told him he was simply coming along to make up the numbers on the bench and he would not be brought on to the field of play. Unfortunately with about 10 minutes left of the match he was brought on as a replacement and tragically suffered a second injury to his head. He was seen walking to the side line in a confused state whereupon he collapsed unconscious and an ambulance was called.  He was brought to St James’s Hospital where a CT brain scan was performed which demonstrated a massive acute on chronic left subdural haematoma with significant mass effect.  His Glasgow Coma Scale at this stage was assessed as 4/15 and later 3/15. He was transferred to Beaumont Hospital where he underwent life-saving emergency craniotomy under the care of Mr Daniel Rawluk, Consultant Neurosurgeon.  Lucas remained in the intensive care unit at Beaumont Hospital for some time before being transferred back to St Vincent’s University Hospital and then to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire for a protracted period of rehabilitation.

Liability was denied by both St Michael’s College and St Vincent’s Hospital from the outset despite the evidence of negligence against both Defendants being overwhelming. It was not until the case came on for trial on the 4th March 2014, over 4 years after Lucas’s injury, that liability was admitted. The case however proceeded as the claim for damages was hotly contested by both Defendants. Evidence given on behalf of the Plaintiff by his mother as well as numerous international experts, was vigorously challenged until a settlement was reached between the parties and ruled on by the High Court.

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09 April 2014

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