Student sues city for £150k after lawnmower accident

The entrance to George Heriot's, where the girl was a pupil
The entrance to George Heriot's, where the girl was a pupil
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A FORMER pupil at George Heriot’s School is suing the city council for £150,000 after claiming she was left scarred for life in a freak lawnmower accident in the Meadows.

Kara Murray suffered a deep laceration to her face after a metal object was thrown from the blades of a ride-on lawnmower and struck her as she sat on the grass with friends.

The 19-year-old, who is now a student at Edinburgh University, wants to undergo private plastic surgery after being left feeling self-conscious about the scarring.

The accident took place after Ms Murray attended a prize-giving ceremony at McEwan Hall to mark her school’s last day of term.

Lawyers for the student claim the council was negligent as staff had not properly examined the grounds to see if there was any debris which could prove dangerous before mowing the area.

Ms Murray was injured days after the charity MoonWalk took place in the council-owned Meadows, which her legal team believes might have resulted in potential debris being left in the area when tents were dismantled.

Council chiefs are fighting the damages claim made at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, arguing that inspections had taken place and that it was “not reasonably practical” to remove the public from the Meadows while the grass was cut.

Ms Murray, then aged 14, was celebrating with friends after the prize-giving on June 29, 2006, and the group sat down in a south-east section of Middle Meadows Walk.

She said a council gardener on a ride-on lawnmower was working in the area, and when the lawnmower was a “few yards away . . . suddenly and without warning” the teenager felt something strike her face.

She said an object 3.5in by 1.75in came to rest on the ground which looked like a large metal staple. She claims it was ejected at speed from the lawnmower.

After she was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, her parents later returned to the Meadows after being told by a hospital consultant that it would be useful to know what had hit their daughter.

The couple said they found “at least a dozen” metal objects lying in the grass.

Ms Murray was moved to St John’s Hospital in Livingston for treatment to the wound, forcing her family to cancel a holiday, but was left with a “long and obvious and disfiguring scar extending from her lip to her chin and lower jaw”.

Ms Murray wants to undergo an operation costing £2000 to treat the scar.

Lawyers for Ms Murray told the court that the danger of objects being thrown from such lawnmowers was “well- recognised”. They contend that the council’s risk assessment for the threat was “not sufficient or suitable”, adding that the area should have been swept for “solid objects” especially after the MoonWalk.

The legal team also said that members of the public should have been kept at a safe distance, and gardeners should have been advised of this practice.

But council lawyers told the court that the area had been checked by the gardener and his supervisor, and that an inspection of the lawnmower had found its safety guards were in place.

The council also claimed that the gardener had been cutting grass in the south-west, not south-east, of Middle Meadows Walk where Ms Murray said she was sitting.

Ms Murray said she did not want to comment on the matter.

A city council spokeswoman said they could not comment on an ongoing court case.