A schoolboy has failed in his personal injury action where he claimed his primary school was negligent in supplying him with a deflated football that caused him to break his wrist during a soccer match.
At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys dismissed the case by Julius Kroka (14) taken against Ennis Educate Together, Gort Rd, Ennis.
Suing through his mother, Master Kroka claimed that kicking the deflated ball during a soccer match with class-mates at break-time on March 14 2017 caused him to fall.
Master Kroka of Sandfield Hall, Ennis said that he broke his wrist on the tarmac when trying to break his fall.
Master Kroka was aged 12 at the time and he told the court: “I was falling backwards. If I fell on my head, God knows what would have happened, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today. My instinct told me to put out my left hand.”
Master Kroka said that the football was between 60% to 70% deflated.
In the case, the school put forward evidence that Master Kroka didn’t kick the ball at all and that his version of the accident was ‘impossible’. The school had a similar ball in court for Judge Keys to inspect.
Judge Keys said that the written grounds of the case put forward on behalf of the plaintiff are “extraordinary”.
Judge Keys said if the case was to succeed “I think you have to stop playing football altogether in schools”.
Master Kroka’s legal team employed a consulting engineer as part of his case and the school had to employ its own engineer in its defence who argued that the ball could not have been deflated at the time.
Judge Keys said that even if he held with Master Kroka that the accident occurred in the manner described, “I see no grounds for holding the school responsible full stop”.
He said: “The schoolboy lost his balance and when he put his hand out to try to save himself from falling, he broke his wrist. I am afraid that is an accident, these things happen.
He added: “School accidents happen when people are playing. They trip, they fall and players fall when they try to kick a football.”
Judge Keys said: “I think this is a case that can’t succeed under any circumstances - and I have no option but to dismiss it.”
Judge Keys said that he would award costs against the plaintiff.
“This is a case where a message has to go out from the courts where some actions are brought there is a risk of costs being awarded against you.”
Judge Keys added: “I am not saying that the Plaintiff misled the court in any way or anything like that. It was his perception of what happened.”
Judge Keys put a stay on the costs order and it will be lifted in the event of an appeal by Master Kroka to the High Court.
In his evidence, Master Kroka told the court: “I put my leg to the ball and as I tried to pass it on, I lost my balance and fell back.
He said: “My foot lodged into the ball because it was deflated. It was flat by the way it was rolling - it was 60% to 70% deflated.”
He said that a friend had taken the ball out from the classroom storage locker for the game where 10 to 12 others were also playing.
A female school friend also told the court that she saw Master Kroka falling after kicking the ball.
However, Ennis Educate Together Special Needs Assistant (SNA), Marian Moroney told the court that she was 10 feet from the accident and said that Master Kroka never made contact with the ball.
Ms Moroney told the court: “He went to kick the ball but never connected with the ball and fell over.”
Ms Moroney said that there was no problem with the ball and it was used for another game the following day.
When it was put to Master Kroka that he didn’t kick the ball, he said: “That didn’t happen.”
Consulting Engineer retained by Master Kroka, Michael Flynn told the court that he met with the plaintiff and his mother to discuss the circumstances around the incident.
Mr Flynn told the court: “The ball is a size 5 and his foot would have dropped two to three inches and that would cause him to possibly lose his balance - it certainly is a drop. It depends on the level of deflation.”
Consulting engineer for Ennis Educate Together, Tom Hayes told the court that he had carried out objective tests on a similar ball.
Mr Hayes said that it was ‘impossible’ for Master Kroka’s fall to be caused by kicking a deflated ball.
Mr Hayes told the court: “Even kicking a very deflated ball, it doesn’t catch the foot based on my testing.”
He said: “You are more likely to fall on a fully inflated ball because it is like a marble rather than a partially deflated ball.”