Autistic girl hit by a train after making her way onto tracks at back of her home awarded €400,000 damages

Four Courts

11 April 2022

A young autistic girl who was hit by a train near her home in Tipperary has settled her High Court action for €400,000.

Mary Ryan (19) was only nine, and had been diagnosed at an early age with autism and a learning disability, when she made her way through or over a fence at the back of her home in Tipperary town, which backs onto the Waterford-Limerick junction line, and was hit by a train.

The autistic child’s action was against Iarnród Éireann and Tipperary County Council. Liability was not admitted.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons was asked to approve the settlement offer because, although she was a minor at the time the offer was made, she is no longer a minor and has severe intellectual disabilities and is non-verbal. She therefore lacked capacity to enter a binding settlement and this required the approval of the court.

Through her mother Breda, she sued the railway company and the council over the accident on March 12, 2012.

Mr Justice Simons said Ms Ryan lives with her loving parents in a family home which is leased from Tipperary County Council.

The judge said as a result of being hit by the train she suffered significant injuries. Her mother ran to help her daughter who was lying on the tracks and was in a comatose state.

She suffered a concussion, a collapsed left lung, a fractured right arm and abrasions and lacerations around her legs.

She was rushed to hospital and was admitted to the intensive care unit. She spent two days in ICU and another four days in hospital.

The main allegation in the proceedings was that there was a failure to put in place an appropriate wall or fence between the family home and the railway line or an alleged failure to maintain properly such fencing as had been provided.

The judge said unfortunately she later developed epilepsy and suffered seizures.

Her mother told the court there has been a “big change” in her daughter since the accident.

She said prior to the accident that Mary had been very mobile and enjoyed going out to the town, the shops or the beach but she now rarely leaves the house, and it takes two people to mind her.

Mr Justice Simons said if the proceedings were to go to full hearing there was a real risk the damages awarded would be less than the €400,000 offered.

This was because she might not succeed in persuading the trial judge that there was a causal connection between the accident in 2012 and the subsequent health difficulties suffered, including both the onset of epilepsy and a stroke six years ago.

The judge noted the settlement amount would allow for improvement in Ms Ryan’s day-to-day circumstances.

The judge praised her parents who had provided excellent care and support for their autistic daughter.

If you would like an assessment of a claim, you can use the online form available here without obligation or alternatively you can use the automatic claim calculator.

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