Judge: School fall was an accident, pure and simple

A 22-year-old university student could face a hefty legal bill after she yesterday lost her High Court action for an injury sustained while playing hockey at school.

Ailbhe Cole slipped on wet grass as she retrieved a ball that had gone out of play. Mr Justice Raymond Fullam said it was “an accident, pure and simple.”

“Strange as it may seem, accidents can happen where ‘somebody else’ is not to blame. This was such an occasion,” he said, adding: “Sport is an important part of education in schools and not just just in developing healthy minds in healthy bodies. If schools were to be made legally responsible for pupils slipping on wet or mucky grass in the course of outdoor games, it would be impossible to include any outdoor sport on the curriculum.”

Ms Cole was a Leaving Certificate student at Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny, Killiney, Dublin, and was training and playing hockey onthe shale and grit pitch when the accident happened on November 19, 2012.

Ms Cole of O’Rourke Park, Sallynoggin, Dublin, now a UCD pharmacology student, had sued Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny, Ballinclea Road, Killiney. She claimed there was an alleged failure to install sufficient lighting for the playing field and that hockey had been allegedly allowed to be played in the absence of sufficient lighting. It was further claimed the ground around the kerb area of the pitch was slippery. The claims were denied and the school contended training only occurred, light permitting. The court heard the school has since got a new pitch and facilities.

Dismissing the case, Mr Justice Fullam said Ms Cole’s injury was not caused as a result of any negligent act or ommission on the part of the school or any deficiency in the facilities provided by the school. “Specifically the injury was not caused as a result of a training session being held in darkness or inadequate light or because there was some structural defect or trap in the grass perimeter,” the judge said.

Ms Cole’s counsel, Niall Beirne, asked that costs not be awarded against the student as he said she was starting out in her adult life. Mr Justice Fullam said costs follow the event, but he was sure the sides would be able to come to some agreement.


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