At the High Court a legal action taken by a law student, left with catastrophic injuries when he was hit by a car driven by a disqualified  driver who mounted a footpath, has resulted in approval being granted for a settlement of €8m.

Driver Paul Connolly struck 21-year-old Francis Dhala from Dublin and another pedestrian in May 2019 when his vehicle veered onto a footpath close to Coolmine Railway. Following the incident 39-year old Mr Connolly was given a prison sentence of eight-and-a-half years, with the last 18 months suspended, after being found guilty of dangerous driving which resulted in catastrophic injuries and driving under the influence of drugs. Additionally he was handed a 25-year driving ban.

During the trial for Mr Connolly’s part in the road traffic incident, the Circuit Court was informed that he (Connolly) admitted taking drugs the night prior to the accident. At the time of the accident he was driving his child to school and was approaching a railway barrier when he undertook a line of traffic. However, he lost control of the car and mounted the footpath where he struck Mr Dhala and also injured a 54-year-old man..

When the Gardai attended the scene of the accident Mr Connolly claimed that he had struck a shrub and then completed a U-turn and “calmly” drove away from the scene with a smashed window. However, another driver contacted Gardai and remained in touch with them until they intercepted Mr Connolly.

Mr Dhala took the legal action for compensation against Mairead McGrath, the owner of the car, and Mr Connolly alleging there was negligence and a number of breaches of duty. Liability was accepted in the action. 

Justice Michael Hanna referred to Mr Dhala’s recovery from his injuries as a “tale of horrifying injury and inspirational effort and ability by Francis who has done astonishing things to make his lot as good as it might be”. 

He added that “all plaudits” must go to Mr Dhala whose remarkable recovery was “absolutely staggering and shows obviously there is a fine spirit there and will make the best of what he has”. The Judge was also informed that Mr Dhala’s hopes to enrol in a Masters degree course in law and eventually qualify to become a solicitor. He was also told that Mr Dhala has a very supportive family with a sister who has completed a law degree and his lecturer father works for the UN. 

The judge said he had no hesitation in approving the €8m road traffic compensation compensation settlement of certain payouts from the settlement, including €395,000 for medical expenses.

Justice Hanna added that: “One could only hope that he will “in turn offer hope to many people in the situation of catastrophic injuries that they can go on to achieve things”,