Ex-school hockey star loses dental injuries court battle
A hockey player who suffered dental injuries in a match has lost a High Court negligence claim against her former school.
Megan Murray (22) sued Rainey Endowed in Magherafelt, Co Derry, over damage inflicted during a game nearly eight years ago in which she was not wearing a mouthguard.
But refusing to award any payout, a judge ruled yesterday that the school's policy of recommending that pupils use gumshields met the appropriate standard of care.
Mr Justice Stevens said: "I find that the plaintiff's parents were sufficiently warned as to the risks of not wearing a mouthguard and that they were not deprived of the opportunity of persuading the plaintiff to wear the mouthguard."
Ms Murray was 15 when she was struck by a hockey stick during a match against Friends School in December 2008.
She played centre forward for Rainey Endowed and had also been selected to represent Ulster at under-16 level.
Medical evidence in the case established that if she had been wearing a gumshield it would have prevented damage to her teeth and probably reduced the severity of a cut to her lip.
Her lawyers claimed that the wearing of a mouthguard should have been compulsory, and that neither she nor her parents were sufficiently warned of the risks of not using one.
However, defending against the action, Rainey Endowed's trustees and board of governors argued that they had met their duty of care to Ms Murray.
Although they had not made wearing a mouthguard compulsory, the use of one was said to have been recommended to both her and her parents.
The court heard a school uniform code sent out each year set out equipment and clothing required for hockey.
It included the statement: "For their own protection, it is recommended that girls wear shinguards/mouthguard during hockey activities, as advised by the Hockey Federation."
The plaintiff's former hockey teacher also stated that she encouraged pupils to use the guards from first year onwards, telling them before each session: "You only have one set of teeth. Please wear the gumshield."
Finding sufficient warnings were given, Mr Justice Stephens said Ms Murray was kept well-informed about mouthguards.
"As a result of what the plaintiff was told, she knew that it was important to wear a mouthguard and she knew that it was important because otherwise her teeth could be knocked out," the judge added.
Ms Murray told the court she did wear a mouthguard sometimes, but found it slightly uncomfortable as it made it more difficult to speak. The judge found that the slight degree of inconvenience was the reason why she decided against wearing the shield on occasions, despite knowing the risks involved.
Confirming that the school had effectively communicated its policies to her parents, he said: "I do not consider that the plaintiff has established any grounds of negligence against the defendant."