Woman injured ‘tram surfing’ on Luas awarded €550,000

Judge says Rebecca Kelly, now aged 20, knew that she did a ‘silly thing’ at the Fatima stop

Rebecca Kelly, of Pearse House, Pearse Street, Dublin,  pictured leaving the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Rebecca Kelly, of Pearse House, Pearse Street, Dublin, pictured leaving the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

A woman who sustained a severe brain injury when she was a teenager after falling off the side of a Luas while ‘tram surfing’, has settled her High Court action for €550,000.

Rebecca Kelly, who was 13 at the time of the incident, jumped on the outside of a Luas tram and gripped the edge of the doors as it departed the Fatima stop on the Red Line on the night of September 3rd, 2010.

She then fell back onto the tracks and hit her head before her friend and others pulled her out of the way of an oncoming Luas tram.

Bruce Antoniotti SC, for Ms Kelly, told the High Court his client, who recently became a mother, accepted the accident was her fault. She acknowledged she should not have been ‘tram surfing’ and knew at the time that it was a dangerous activity. He said his client did not want to blame the driver.

Ms Kelly, now aged 20, of Pearse House, Pearse Street, had, through her mother Elizabeth Kelly, sued the Luas operators, Veolia Transport Dublin Light Rail Ltd and Veolia Transport Ireland Ltd as a result of the incident.

Visual systems

She alleged failure to have any or any adequate visual systems employed and activated on the tram. She alleged that meant the driver was unable in the circumstances to see the non-platform side of the tram before leaving the station.

It was claimed that the tram pulled off from the station without first observing the non-platform side.

All the claims were denied and Veolia pleaded contributory negligence on Ms Kelly’s part in allegedly exposing herself to the risk of injury by ‘tram surfing’ with a total disregard for her own safety.

Mr Antoniotti said it was a tragic case. He said Ms Kelly was with a group of friends on the inbound platform at the Fatima stop at 9.15pm. At that time, young people engaged in ‘tram surfing’, he said.

Mr Justice Cross said it was what boys used to do in the past by hanging on to the back of lorries. Counsel said ‘tram surfing’ involved people jumping on to the side door where there was a small ledge and putting their fingers between the door and the body of the tram whole holding on “for dear life”.

Metal strips

There were 54 incidents of tram surfing recorded on Luas trams between 2005 and 2010 but the placing of metal strips to prevent gripping between the door and the body of the train had helped deter the practice, counsel said.

He said Ms Kelly jumped on to the side of the Tallaght bound tram but fell off very quickly and hit her head. She had never ‘tram surfed’ before, he added.

In this case, the tram pulled in to the Tallaght bound platform and the driver had to watch the platform where passengers were getting on and off. To view the other side of the tram, where Ms Kelly jumped on, would have required him to switch cameras and the driver also had to be looking straight ahead when the tram moving off as people often try to cross in front, counsel said.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Cross said it was not necessary for the court to tell Ms Kelly she did a “silly thing” as she knew that. However, he commended her for her honesty.