Gerard Malouf and Partners run Vanuatu public liability claims

Published 03 Aug 2016

Solicitors at Gerard Malouf and Partners have an extensive knowledge of the common law system compensation claims within the Pacific region. We have experience running claims in both Fiji and Vanuatu for all types of personal injury claims.

We have regularly pursued public liability compensation claims in Vanuatu or Fiji to better protect our clients. Berard v Blake (Vanuatu) 2013 is a recent Supreme Court of Vanuatu decision on a public liability matter.

On 24 April 2008, Mr Benard slipped and fell while walking across the car park of a well-known Vanuatu Defendant Solicitors firm.  A claim was made that the defendant were in breach of the duty of care pursuant to the legislation at the time.

The Court quickly found that the defendant was in breach of this duty. This case rested on two important decisions. Firstly which injuries were caused by the accident and secondly, how much compensation should be awarded to Mr Benard.

While it was obvious that Benards broken leg was a consequence of the injury it was up to the Court to decide whether or not his lower back injury and his diabetes were also caused by the accident.  

Through some cleaver cross examination work the barrister for Mr Benard was able to elicit from the Defendant’s medical expert that the lower back injury “could” have been caused by the accident. This was all that was needed to convince the judge who found in Benard’s favour.

The diabetes was a little more tricky. It suddenly onset within 1 year of the accident. It was generally accepted the Benards life style made him prone to the development of diabetes. Mr Benard’s GP provided strong evidence to suggest that the onset of diabetes was very sudden and therefore had to be contributed to the accident. No other medical expert was able to discredit this idea and as a result the judge found that the diabetes was a direct result of the accident.

These were two important findings as it meant that Mr Benard was able to have his medical expenses in the past and the future paid for in relation to these two injuries.

In Vanuatu the award for compensation is broken up into two different parts. Special damages and General Damages.

Special damages includes the out of pocket expenses, care and loss of income resulting from the accident.  In Australia these come under what is called heads of damage and are assessed in a very similar way.

In this case there was no care part to the claim. As a result the claim was contained to his medical and treatment expenses and his loss of earnings capacity. The Court found extensive loss of earing to the equivalent of $50,000.00 Australian. As well as extensive medical and treatment costs. The court made allowances for future operation and mediation into the future. An allowance of $75,000.00 was made.

General damages is compensation for pain and suffering following the injuries. In Australia we have a new system which was brought in in 2002. In Vanuatu they still follow the old common law system as to damages. Our older and wiser solicitors will be well acquainted with this system.

The Court took into consideration the nature of the injury, its severity, the duration of any disabilities and if they were to continue, the impact of the injury on the Plaintiff and the awareness of the Plaintiff of his disabilities.  The Court ultimately awarded and amount of $36,000.00 in general damages.

It is important to note at this point that damages are assessed in the jurisdiction which you as the Plaintiff live. Mr Benard was a local to Vanuatu and therefore all treatment and economic losses were assessed in their currency. Should you be injured in Vanuatu but reside in Australia, Australian rates will apply.

If you have been injured overseas and believe that someone else is at fault please contact us for a free consultation.