Girl injured following fall when 'tram surfing' settles personal injury claim for €550,000

Rebecca Kelly, now aged 20, leaving the High Court in Dublin yesterday after she was awarded €550,000 in her personal injuries action for damages. Pic: CourtPix.

By Ann O'Loughlin

A young girl who sustained a severe brain injury after she fell off the side of a Luas tram when she was "tram surfing" has settled her High Court action for €550,000.

Rebecca Kelly was only 13 years of age when she and a friend jumped on the outside of Luas tram gripping on to the edge of the doors as it departed the Fatima station on the Red Line eight years ago.

The young girl fell back on to the tracks striking her head and had to be rescued by her friend. The friend along with the help of others pulled Rebecca out of the way of an oncoming Luas tram en route to the city centre.

Rebecca's Counsel, Bruce Antoniotti SC today told the High Court the young woman who became a mother just two weeks ago accepted the accident was her fault and she acknowledged she should not have been tram surfing and she knew at the time it was a dangerous activity.

Counsel said Rebecca did not want to blame the driver .

Rebecca Kelly (20) of Pearse House, Pearse Street, Dublin had though her mother Elizabeth Kelly sued the Luas operators Veolia Transport Dublin Light Rail Ltd and Veolia Transport Ireland Ltd of St John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin as a result of the accident on September 3, 2010.

She claimed there was an alleged failure to have any or any adequate visual systems employed and activated on the tram and that the driver was unable in the circumstances to see the non platform side of the tram before leaving the station.It was claimed the tram pulled off from the station without first observing the non platform side of the tram.

All the claims were denied and Veolia contended there was contributory negligence on the part of the young girl as she had she had allegedly exposed herself to the risk of injury by tram surfing with a total diregard for her own safety.

A Luas tram in operation

Mr Antoniotti SC told the court it was a tragic case. He said Rebecca was with a group of friends at the Fatima Luas stop on the Red Line on the inbound platform at 9.15pm.

He said at that time young people engaged in "tram surfing". Mr Justice Cross commented it was what boys used to do in the past by hanging on to the back of lorries.

Counsel said tram surfing was where young people jumped on to the side door where here was a small ledge and they put their fingers between the door and the body of the tram and " held on for dear life."

There were, he said 54 incidents of tram surfing recorded on the 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.

Rebecca, he said jumped on to the side of the Tallaght bound tram but fell off very quickly and hit her head. Counsel said she had never tram surfed before.

Counsel said there had been a problem in the UK and Ireland with young people tram surfing and and initially a grease was applied to the bodywork and cameras have been installed as well.

He said 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 Rebecca jumped on would have required him to switch cameras. Counsel said the driver also had to be looking straight ahead when the tram moving off as people often try to cross in front.

He said that after this accident a metal strip was put in the space between the doors and the body of the trams.

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

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