Injured rugby player upset over school’s stance, court hears

Lucas Neville, who suffered brain injury after match, sues college and hospital

 Lucas Neville and his mother  Michelle Neville outside the High Court in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Lucas Neville and his mother Michelle Neville outside the High Court in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins


The mother of a student who underwent surgery for serious head injuries after he collapsed at the end of a schools rugby match has told the High Court she was upset when the school later advised her he could not stay there.

Her son Lucas was “not himself” and was having difficulties when he returned, when still receiving therapy for his injuries, to St Michael’s College, Ailesbury Road, in the academic year 2010-2011 to take a couple of Leaving Certificate subjects, Michelle Neville said.

She was “upset” when later phoned by the school and told it would be better if he didn’t stay, she said.

She was giving evidence in the continuing action by her son, now aged 22, of Pembroke Lawns, Ballsbridge, for damages on grounds St Michael’s owed him a duty of care and stood “in loco parentis” of him while he engaged in sporting activities on behalf of the school.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan has heard Lucas was called from the subs bench to play in the last few minutes of a match between St Michael’s and St Mary’s on November 28th, 2009 although he had suffered concussion after accidentally receiving a knee in the head while engaged in rugby training on November 11th, 2009. He collapsed on the side of the pitch after suffering a head injury in the match on November 28th.

The school had assured his mother after the November 11th incident it would implement its protocol whereby students who had suffered head injuries would not be permitted to engage in contact sports for three weeks, the court was told.

Mr Neville has also sued St Vincent’s Healthcare Group as owner of St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin over alleged negligence in his treatment there. He attended the hospital with concussion on November 11th 2009 and returned on November 15th, 2009 with headaches and other difficulties. Among the claims against the hospital were negligence arising from failure to carry out a CT head scan on November 15th.

Both the school and the hospital have admitted liability but dispute the €5m level of damages sought.

During cross-examination yesterday on behalf of the school, Eoghan Fitzsimons SC withdrew his suggestion it was “obscene” for the €5m claim to included a claim for monies to pay Mrs Neville for lengthy periods she spent in hospital with her son while he was recovering from surgery and undergoing rehabilitation.

Mrs Neville said hospital staff were very good but “very stretched” and she believed her constant monitoring of Lucas had accelerated improvement in his condition. As his mother, she wanted the best for him, she added.

She said she did a little part time work and was also in receipt of social welfare payments. Unfortunately, the situation now is they need those payments, she said.

Cross-examined by Michael Gleeson SC, for the hospital, she agreed Lucas, prior to his injuries, acted in films including 32A and Angela’s Ashes and had had an agent. After his injuries, they also received some monies from the Irish Rugby Football Union to help with his education.

At the close of her day long period in the witness box, Mrs Neville was wiping back tears. Mr Justice Ryan thanked her and added he was conscious of the difficulties for Lucas arising from him being discussed akin to an “exhibit A”.

Earlier, Mrs Neville told her counsel Denis McCullough SC, while Lucas had suffered serious injuries which continue to leave him cognitively and physically impaired, he has made great progress beyond the expectations of many experts.

After some home schooling, he sat two subjects in the 2011 Leaving Certificate and failed one. He then attended St Andrew’s College in the academic year from September 2011, they were “very good with him” and he described that “as the best year of his life”, Mrs Neville said. Mr Justice Ryan remarked he was “pretty familiar” with St Andrew’s.

Having sat the Leaving Cert in 2011, 2012 and 2013, he had passed a total six subjects and is now pursuing a full-time course and also attending an open course two nights weekly in Trinity College. She had “great belief” in him and hoped he would continue to progress.

“I think he’s brilliant because he’s my son and he has made enormous strides in his recovery.”

He continues to have gaps in his memory and she was concerned about that and other issues, including he was bitten by a dog once because he approached an animal most people would have avoided. They tried to live as normal a life as possible but he didn’t socialise as generally understood, partly due to his difficulties and because he doesn’t drink alcohol.

The case resumes next Tuesday.