Girl who suffered catastrophic head injury as a baby awarded €4.7m interim payout in settlement 

The child had sued her father and a car hire firm over head-on collision while she was unrestrained in car seat
Girl who suffered catastrophic head injury as a baby awarded €4.7m interim payout in settlement 

Orla Vezignol McGuinnes and her husband Laurent Vezignol, of Donadea, Co Kildare, leaving the High Courton on Wednesday after the hearing. Picture: Collins Courts

A five-year old girl who suffered a catastrophic brain injury when, as a baby, she was a passenger in a car which crashed in a head-on collision has secured a €4.7 million interim payout in settlement of her High Court action.

Luna Vezignol McGuinness was only three-and-a-half months old when the accident happened in Lissycasey, Co Clare on February 27, 2016. Luna was on holiday with her mother and father at the time.

The little girl had sued the driver of the car, her father Laurent Vezignol, and the owner of the car, Flynn Bros Rent a Car Ballygar, Athlone Road, Roscommon town.

She brought the proceedings through her mother Orla Vezignol McGuinness. The family now live in Donadea, Co Kildare.

Luna’s counsel, Oonah McCrann SC, instructed by Ernest Cantillon, solicitor, said the case arose from particularly tragic circumstances. Counsel said Luna’s father, who is a French national, had, in driving away from a petrol station in Lissycasey, "a momentary lapse of concentration" and pulled out on to the road before the baby was strapped in. Luna was unrestrained at the time of the head-on collision.

Counsel told the court Luna’s mother and uncle suffered significant injuries in the accident, but they had not brought claims. Luna, counsel said, has a type of cerebral palsy and is a beautiful little girl. Her father works full-time and her mother, she said, devotes “every minute of every day” to her daughter’s care. She said the judge who had been hearing the case before it settled, Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon, had remarked she was humbled listening to the care and love provided by Luna’s parents.

Heroes

Approving the interim payment, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said both parents had been heroes in caring for their daughter, who had progressed tremendously as a result. He said Luna’s claim was a necessary claim and he noted that other significant claims by Luna’s mother and uncle could have been made, but were not.

He said he echoed the sentiments of Ms Justice O’Hanlon made earlier in the case and he wished the family all the best for the future.

Luna's case will come back before the court in five years when her future care needs will be assessed.

At the opening of the action in the Four Courts this week, Ms McCrann, with Pearse Sreenan SC, told the court the couple, who were living in South America at the time, had come here on holiday to “to show off the baby to the grandparents". Counsel said the family had stopped at a garage in Lissycasey to buy chocolates for a friend they were going to visit next. While her mother was in the shop, Luna’s father took his daughter out of her seat to comfort her. When Luna’s mother returned, she took her daughter and was strapping her into her seat when Mr Vezignol pulled the car out on to the road. Counsel said Luna was unrestrained at the time of the collision.

'Lives imploded'

“In that instance, the family’s lives imploded,” counsel told the court.

The baby suffered multiple skull fractures and she was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Limerick and later transferred to Dublin, where she had surgery. She was not discharged from hospital until the end of April 2016 and she then spent four months in the National Rehabilitation Hospital.

Counsel said Luna is very much loved and brings joy to all her family.

It was claimed that without warning Mr Vezignol drove the hire car on the incorrect side of the carriageway and the collision occurred with an oncoming vehicle. It was further claimed there was an alleged failure to ensure the intended path of travel was safe and free of vehicles and an alleged failure to keep any proper lookout.

Liability was admitted in the case, which was before the court for assessment of damages only.

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