Former NRL player Michael Jennings loses appeal

Mar 20, 2023 | Publication

Former NRL player Michael Jennings has lost his appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal to reduce the damages awarded to his ex-wife who successfully sued him and will have to also pay her court costs.

In February 2020, Ms Kirra Wilden commenced proceedings against her former husband, Mr Michael Jennings, in the District Court. Ms Wilden alleged that she had suffered injury as a result of four incidents of rape in 2014 and 2015 at the hands of Mr Jennings.

The first incident occurred on 12 October 2014, when Mr Jennings arrived home in the early hours of the morning, smelling of alcohol and cigarettes. Ms Wilden said he forced her to engage in sexual intercourse without her consent.

The second incident was alleged to have occurred in late 2014 under similar circumstances where Ms Wilden was again forced by the appellant to engage in sexual intercourse without consent.

The third and fourth incidents occurred in 2015, again under the circumstances of Mr Jennings returning home late and smelling of alcohol and cigarettes. He against forced her to engage in sexual intercourse without consent.

The events were said to have taken place between May and August, 2021. The trial judge, Wilson SC DCJ, accepted the plaintiff’s claims, handing down judgment on 21 December 2021. She was awarded just under $500,000 in damages, including $100,000 for future economic loss.

The Court of Appeal did not accept that the trial judge had reversed the onus of proof.

The trial judge found that the plaintiff was a careful and reliable historian who gave evidence with clarity. Having regard to the evidence given by the plaintiff about the text messages, the judge found her entirely persuasive and that her account was neither “glaringly improbable” nor “inherently unlikely”: [25]–[27].

In relation to the future economic loss award for damages, it was not demonstrated that the amount awarded by the trial judge for future economic loss was excessive in the sense that it was beyond the range which could reasonably be considered, having regard to the fact that Ms Wilden had an expectation of 37 years of employment and an unchallenged finding of PTSD.

The decision can be read in full here: https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/186d8386b4f9e8b21fcaba9d

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