Assault on rugby field results in $168,000 compensation

Published 08 Mar 2016

The Defendant has punched the Plaintiff in the face "well off the ball" or outside the play of the game. On 19 November 2011 the Defendant and the Plaintiff were both participants in a fourth grade rugby union match at Manly Oval in Sydney. As a result of the assault the Plaintiff has been rendered incapable of participating in the same any further. The Plaintiff suffered serious injuries to his mouth face and jaw and as a result contracted Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The Plaintiff was a 25 year old male, who had completed two university degrees before leaving Australia to go back packing in 2010. The Plaintiff had played Rugby since he was 5 years of age and many of his close friendship were formed during his association with his local club.

One month later the Defendant has pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, recklessly causing grievous bodily harm to the Plaintiff by the Manly Local Court. The Defendant was put on a good behaviour bond and shortly after left Australia.

In May 2013 the Plaintiff sued for damages which arose as a result of the assault. There was no appearance from the Defendant and the summary judgement was made ex parte (without the presence of the Defendant), in favour of the Plaintiff.

Because the proceeding were heard ex parte, the Plaintiff's barrister had a special responsibility of candour as well as a responsibility to bring to the judges attention any evidence which were adverse to the Plaintiff's submissions.

A key issue for determination in this case was whether the Civil Liability Act actually applied to the proceedings. Importantly section 3B(1)(a) which states that the Act does not apply to civil liability of a person "in respect to intentional acts that are done by a person with the intent to cause injury". The judge held that the combined effect of the Defendant's plea of guilty in the local court and evidence given by the Plaintiff and his friend established beyond reasonable doubt that the action of the Defendant was intentional.

The effect of this was that section 3B(1)(a) applied and the Civil Liability Act did not apply in this situation. Therefore the matter was to be decided in accordance with the common law principles of damages.

The judge after taking into consideration the seriousness of the injuries suffered, the public nature of the assault, and the subsequent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, found that the Plaintiff was entitled to general damages for his pain and suffering. 

The Plaintiff was also entitled to damages for his past and further medical expense, the judge finding the need to future surgical intervention as well damages for past economic loss and gratuitous care provided to him by his sister.

A claim was made by the Plaintiff for exemplary damages. The Judge relied upon the High Court's judgement in Uren v John Fairfax & Sons Pty Ltd that the Defendants actions must be conscious and have contumelious disregard for the Plaintiff's rights. The judge found this was the case considering the haste in which the Defendant left the country following the assault.

Judgement was entered for the Plaintiff in the order of $168,000.00 and the Defendant as ordered to pay the Plaintiff's costs for the proceedings.