Quantifying damages for sexual abuse cases – MC v Morris NSWSC 1326

Sep 27, 2023 | Publication

In MC v Morris  NSWSC 1326, the Supreme Court awarded the plaintiff damages in the sum of $3,510,513 in respect of a cause of action for assault and battery in the nature of sexual abuse brought against his former neighbour.

The plaintiff alleged that he was sexually assaulted on six separated occasions during 1996, 1997 and 1998. The plaintiff was brought into contact with the defendant, Mr Morris, when he begun lawn-mowing and yard maintenance work for his neighbours, to earn pocket money. The defendant groomed and sexually abused the plaintiff during this period. The plaintiff was aged between 13 and 15 years old, and the defendant 56 and 58 years at the time.

The plaintiff reported the assaults to the police in 2017 and the defendant was subsequently charged with, and plead guilty to, criminal offences that resulted in his imprisonment.

The plaintiff then commenced civil proceedings against the defendant, and led evidence concerning the effect of the abuse on his life. This included his expulsion from school, his damaged relationship with his now estranged wife and three children, and his inability to maintain ongoing employment.

The plaintiff tendered expert evidence of psychological injury, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression requiring medication, leading to extreme weight gain.

In this case the court considered the significant impact that the sexual abuse had on the plaintiff, including physically, psychologically, financially, and interpersonally. In determining the quantum, the Court noted that it:

“…reflects the reality that the defendant’s predatory pursuit of his depraved sexual interest in a boy of early teenage years has all but destroyed what might have been a contented and useful life.”

The quantum was calculated as follows:

  • General damages – $400,000
  • Interest on general damages for past suffering – $115,000
  • Past economic loss (wages) – $840,000
  • Past economic loss (superannuation) – $92,400
  • Interest on past economic loss – $676,363
  • Future economic loss (wages) – $1,079,483
  • Future economic loss (superannuation) – $152,963
  • Future medical expenses – $20,000
  • Future domestic care – $134,304

Total $3,510,513

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