Judge Brian O’Callaghan heard all of the evidence in the case yesterday afternoon and had adjourned briefly before delivering his decision on the civil action.
However, as soon as he returned to the courtroom at Cork Circuit Court, the plaintiff’s barrister, James Duggan, said there had been an offer from the school, settling the case for €7,500 plus costs.
Mr Duggan told the judge that while he was recommending it, James Cotter, of 1 Liffey Park, Mayfield, father of the plaintiff, Alex Cotter, who was 10 at the time of the accident at Scoil Naomh Eoin Aspal, Mayfield, on September 4, 2014, was unhappy with the offer. Mr Duggan asked the judge to hear from Mr Cotter.
“It think it is a disgrace — €7,500 for the injuries he received and what he went through after the accident,” Mr Cotter said.
Mr Duggan said the full value of the injury was up to €35,000. Judge O’Callaghan agreed it might have been €35,000 to €40,000.
However, Mr Duggan said the value of the injury was not the issue. He said the crucial issue was liability. He said if the case had gone to a judgment in favour of Alex and an award of close to the full value of the injury, the school would have appealed and it was possible he would have been awarded nothing in the High Court with a consequent risk of costs.
Judge O’Callaghan accepted this recommendation and said the wisest course was to approve the settlement offer to be lodged in court until Alex reaches 18.
Philip O’Doherty, engineer for the plaintiff, said the match should have been played on grass rather than tarmac, particularly when there was a grass pitch beside it. Anthony O’Keeffe, engineer for the school, said: “If I was up there and saw a game of football taking place on the tarmac would I have said, ‘stop that’? I don’t think I would.”
Defence barrister, Seamus Roche, said that insisting on playing the match on grass rather than tarmac was a council of perfection which would be difficult for any school in the country to reach.
Kieran Cremin, who was principal at the time, said that in his 16 years at the school there was sport played on the tarmac almost every day without any accident of this seriousness occurring.
The judge said that somewhat reluctantly, he was approving the €7,500 plus costs offer as the plaintiff could have ended up with nothing. He said that not playing the game on grass was not the only matter to be considered. He told Mr Cotter an important issue on liability was that the match had a referee, and two teachers, including Mr Cremin, supervising it.