Woman in ‘Luas surfing’ case initially said claim worth €4m

Rebecca Kelly, who received more than €550,000 for injuries, conceded her own actions played a significant role in the incident

Rebecca Kelly suffered a serious head injury when she fell on the Luas tracks in 2010. Photograph: Collins Courts

Rebecca Kelly suffered a serious head injury when she fell on the Luas tracks in 2010. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The woman who received more than €550,000 last week for injuries she suffered while “Luas surfing” initially claimed her case was worth up to €4 million.

Lawyers for Rebecca Kelly (20) told Veolia, which operated Dublin’s Luas light rail system at the time, that this claim was based on her injuries, the cost of her medical care and the loss of potential earnings relating to her injuries.

Ms Kelly suffered a subdural haematoma which left her with significant cognitive impairment, her lawyers told the tram operator.

The woman also conceded her own actions played a significant role in the incident and was advised by her lawyers she stood little chance of receiving anything close to the €4 million figure, legal sources said.

Ms Kelly was 13 in 2010 when she and a friend jumped on to the side of a tram as it left the Fatima station. She fell on to the tracks and suffered a serious head injury.

Veolia was aware Luas surfing was an issue and cameras set up in response to the problem were not functioning on the day in question.

Ms Kelly of Pearse House, Pearse Street, Dublin, spent a month in the National Rehabilitation Hospital and continues to have problems with her concentration and memory.

Luas operator Transdev has provided more than 100 cooler bags to tram drivers in an attempt to resolve a row over packed lunches which the company says could cost it up to €250,000. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.
Rebecca Kelly suffered a subdural haematoma after attempted Luas surfing which left her with significant cognitive impairment, her lawyers told the tram operator. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

When her case came to court her lawyers entered into a mediation process with Veolia. They admitted contributory negligence but argued it was lessened by her young age.

No liability

At the end of the mediation process Veolia agreed to a €550,000 settlement, about 1/7th of what Ms Kelly initially claimed the case was worth. It did not admit liability.

When the settlement was brought to Mr Justice Kevin Cross for High Court approval on Friday he commented there was a strong possibility the case would have been dismissed if it went to trial and Ms Kelly “would have ended up with nothing”.

Garrett Cooney, a barrister specialising in personal injury cases, said companies engage in “very complex” risk assessments when deciding if they will settle and how much to settle for.

These assessments incorporate multiple factors including actuarial assessments of the monetary impact of an injury on a plaintiff as well as legal assessments of what award a particular judge is likely to make if a case went to trial.

Social media abuse

“Experienced practitioners would be able to give advices as to what a judge is likely to do,” Mr Cooney told The Irish Times, speaking generally.

The age of the injured person also plays a significant role in assessing settlements, Mr Cooney said. “A child is not held to the same standard as an adult.”

An initial paper based actuarial assessment of Ms Kelly’s claim said the light rail company could be exposed to up to €10 million in damages if no other factors were taken into account other than her injuries.

On Monday Ms Kelly’s sister Jennifer said her sister is afraid to leave the house because of the abuse received via social media.

“She has a child two weeks old, she deserves that money. She went through eight years of hell and she’ll suffer with this for the rest of her life. It’s bad enough without all these people abusing her,” she told the 98FM radio station.