Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Schoolgirl hit by hockey puck at Belfast Giants match is seeking landmark settlement - court hears

Schoolgirl hit by hockey puck at Belfast Giants match is seeking landmark settlement
Schoolgirl hit by hockey puck at Belfast Giants match is seeking landmark settlement

A schoolgirl spectator hit on the head by an ice hockey puck at a Belfast Giants match is seeking a landmark award of up to £30,000 damages, it emerged today.

Lawyers for the teenager told the High Court inadequate barriers were erected to stop her from being injured.

The girl is claiming negligence in a lawsuit brought against the owners of both the Odyssey Arena and the Belfast Giants.

She is bidding to become the first ever person in the UK to successfully sue after being struck by a puck going into the crowd at a game.

The girl was aged 12 when she was hit during a warm-up session before a match at the arena in September 2008.

She sustained a wound above her left eye which required four stitches and left her permanently scarred, the court heard.

In their claim against the Odyssey Trust Company Ltd and the Belfast Giants 2008 Ltd, lawyers for the girl claimed there was a failure to carry out a proper risk assessment.

It was also alleged that allowing multiple pucks to be used in a warm-up session without a referee's supervision was negligent.

Counsel for the defendants argued that everything possible was done to ensure spectator safety.

Mr Justice Gillen was told that the arena complied with international ice hockey federation requirements, including the erection of perspex and nets behind goals.

Public warnings are also issued at games, the court heard.

But Brian Fee QC, for the girl, contended that these measures did not go far enough.

He said: "This is a case where there's a recognised high risk that a puck is going to come out and endanger two sections - Odyssey staff or the public."

According to Mr Fee it was irrelevant that netting had been put up behind the goals. His client was seated in another part of the arena.

He added: "If there's a situation where there are multiple pucks in play the warning (given) is, if not useless, virtually useless."

Should liability be established the plaintiff is seeking £30,000 in damages.

After hearing all evidence in the case Mr Justice Gillen reserved judgment.

At one stage he commented: "If this case succeeds it will be the first case ever (of its kind) that succeeds in the UK."

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