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25 Jan 2022

Judge sitting in Tullamore dismisses claim for damages over child's collision on sports day

Judge sitting in Tullamore dismisses claim for damages over child's collision on sports day

Judgment in Longford claim delivered at Tullamore Circuit Court

NOT all accidents are someone else's fault, a judge said today after dismissing a claim for damages arising from a school sports day in Co Longford.

Megan O'Haire, suing by her mother Mary Nevin, sought damages from the Gaelscoil, Longford, after colliding with another child while playing a game on June 16, 2017.

Longford Circuit Civil Court, sitting in Tullamore, heard the girl was two months short of her tenth birthday when she was involved in a game called “Dathanna” in the school football field.

In a judgment, Judge Karen Fergus said the field was divided into zones and Megan's group was playing a game with a nylon parachute which had 24 segments with different sets of colours.

The game involved the children being assigned a colour and all the participants moved the parachute up and down and when a colour was called they held up the parachute and a group of six whose colour had been called would run to a segment vacated by their teammates.

Judge Fergus said it was the plaintiff's evidence that her colour “corcaire” (purple) was called about three times and everything was fine.

On the fourth time she intended running straight from one side to another but heard her teacher calling “Megan, come back” and she turned around and collided with one of the boys in her class, sustaining a bang to the forehead and two black eyes.

Judge Fergus said an engineer for the plaintiff said the game was not safe. The children were in a confined space and running in different directions and a risk assessment should have been carried out and steps taken to make it safe.

Judge Fergus said the teacher had given evidence that the parachute had been used in the school for a long time, even since she attended there herself.

The teacher saw the collision and had not called Megan's name to come back and would never have given an instruction in English because all activities in the school were carried out “as Gaeilge”.

The teacher disagreed with counsel for the plaintiff that it was a free for all and said the children were very familiar with the game.

Judge Fergus said she was satisfied it was nothing more than a simple accident and the school sports day was very well organised and supervised, there was plenty of staff and the parachute game was not unsafe by virtue of the fact that one child ran into another.

“There are mostly some risks attached to all forms of sport, even simple games that might take place on sports day,” said Judge Fergus.

It was not an inherently dangerous activity and it is a vital part of children's education that they learn how to play games and become active and healthy in preparation for their journey through life.

“What happened here was an accident that was part and parcel of normal life and I cannot see now responsibility for it could be placed on the school.”

The girl had made full recovery from a “nasty” bump to the head.

“No one likes to see a child sustain an injury but not all accidents are someone else's fault and compensatable and this is one such case.”

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