Student sues for €5m after suffering injuries in rugby match

Lucas Neville had suffered a previous head injury during a game, High Court hears

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

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

Tue, Mar 4, 2014, 22:10

A student has sued for € 5million in damages over serious head injuries suffered after he collapsed having played a few minutes at the end of a rugby match at a south Dublin school just 17 days after receiving an accidental knee in the head during rugby training.

Lucas Neville had acted in films from the age of six, recorded tv commercials and was on the second rugby team of St Michael’s College, Ailesbury Road, before he suffered the injuries in November 2009, the High Court heard.

He was an 18-year-old Leaving Certificate student when called from the subs bench to play the last minutes of a schools match against St Mary’s Rathmines on November 28th, 2009.

While he walked off the pitch after the match, he collapsed on the edge of the pitch and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

His mother had told the school of his being concussed after getting the knee in the head on November 11th, 2009 during rugby training and was assured the school’s protocol preventing any student with head inuries participating in contact sports for 21 days after injury would be implemented, the court heard.

Mr Neville believed he was on the subs bench and would not have to play but he was asked to come on at the end of the match, Denis McCullough SC said.

The initial injury of November 11th had caused a chronic bleed and the second injury, a blow to his head, caused an acute bleed and the “real and substantial difficulties” suffered by Mr Neville, counsel said.

Mr Neville (22), Pembroke Lawns, Ballsbridge, has sued the school alleging it owed him a duty of care and stood “in loco parentis” of him while he was engaged in sporting activities on behalf of the school.

He has also sued a nominee of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group as owner of St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin over alleged negligence in his treatment there.

Among the claims against the hospital are negligence arising from failure to carry out a CT head scan when he went to the hospital on November 15th, 2011, four days after initially attending there with concussion as a result of suffering a kick to the head during rugby training.

Liability has been admitted and the case is before Mr Justice Sean Ryan for assessment of damages only. The damages claim includes a claim for € 2.6m to meet future care costs and for almost € 1m for loss of earnings.

It is alleged Mr Neville, due to his injuries, will never work competitively but he is striving to do as well as he can, has completed six Leaving Certificate subjects since his surgery and hopes to study Applied Psychology.

Today, the judge heard Mr Neville attended St Vincent’s Hospital on November 11th 2009 after receiving an accidental kick in the head during rugby training. A diagnosis of concussion was made and he was discharged to the care of his mother with head injury advice.

Michelle Neville told the judge they returned to the hospital four days later, on November 15th, because her son was experiencing headaches and pain in his eye and she was very concerned. She requested a CT scan of his head but was assured that was not necessary, she said. A diagnosis of infective sinusitis and a sinus headache was made and he was prescribed antibiotics, Sudafed and paracetamol and discharged home with advice to return if his symptoms continued.

He remained off school that week and, before he returned to school the following week, she told the school about his symptoms and her concerns about his returning to rugby too soon. She said she was assured the school’s own protocol concerning pupils who suffered head injuries meant he would not be allowed return to contact sports for three weeks.

However, on November 28th, some 17 days after his initial injury, Lucas was asked to play at the match against St Mary’s Rathmines, during which he suffered a further blow to the head. At St James’ Hospital, a head scan showed the presence of a subdural haemotoma causing shift of headline structures and evidence of transtentional herniation.

Such was the extent of his injuries he had at one stage received the last rites from a priest, Mrs Neville said.

He was transferred to Beaumont Hospital where surgery was carried out. After some days in the Intensive Care and High Dependency Units, he was transferred back to St Vincent’s for in-patient care after which he was moved to the National Rehabilitation Hopital where he remained from February 16th, 2010 to May 12th, 2010.

The court heard Mr Neville is independent in relation to his self-care needs and has made significant improvements with the assistance of various therapies. He continues to have reduced mobility, problems with balance, dexterity and memory and some speech difficulties and is unlikely to be ever able to drive, the court was told.

Her son was full of life before his accident but it has meant he “has had to grow up all over again”, Mrs Neville said.