A victim of Institutional Sexual Abuse that occurred nearly 40 years ago has been awarded damages of approximately 1.33 million dollars in compensation. The plaintiff endured numerous accounts of physical abuse over two years by a teacher at their school. In this article, our personal injury lawyers delve into the case and shed light on the court’s findings and the compensation the plaintiff awarded. Furthermore, they also explain the importance of seeking professional legal advice with Institutional Sexual Abuse claims.

The Matter of SR V Trustees of De La Salle Brothers – Institutional Sexual Abuse

On 10 February 2023, a child sex abuse victim became one step closer to closure.

On this date, the NSW Supreme Court handed down judgment in his favour in the matter of SR v Trustees of De La Salle Brothers, where Errol Swain, a teacher at the plaintiff’s school, had sexually abused the plaintiff on multiple occasions.

From 1983 to 1984, the plaintiff was a year 6 and year 7 student at De La Salle College in Reversby Height. The plaintiff alleged that he was the victim of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Errol Swain.

The abuse included multiple instances of penetrative abuse, oral abuse against the plaintiff, genital groping and stroking, as well as over 30 incidents of the plaintiff being strapped by the teacher without a valid reason.

The abuse began in the classroom and escalated to include other locations, including the perpetrator’s caravan, which was kept on the school’s premises.

The defendant had initially denied any liability for the abuse. However, when the trial had commenced, the defendant changed its position in accepting that the plaintiff had endured ‘some abuse’ at the hands of the perpetrator but disputed the plaintiff’s narrative to some degree.

The Courts Findings

The Court accepted that the alleged abuse had occurred. In doing so, it accepted the evidence of 22 other persons, who were admitted without objection as tendent evidence. The Court was not inclined to place weight on the lack of any contemporaneous reporting of the abuse.

The court found the defendant vicariously liable for the abuse committed by Swain against the plaintiff on the basis that:

  • The defendant had placed the perpetrator in a position of power, trust, authority, and control over the plaintiff, and the perpetrator had used his authoritative position to molest the plaintiff;
  • The defendant had prior knowledge of the perpetrator’s propensity to engage in such conduct, which was a pivotal factor in determining vicarious liability as the defendant had placed the perpetrator in a position of trust and authority despite this knowledge.

The plaintiff had a multi-factorial psychological stressor, including a marital breakdown resulting in an impacted psychological state. The court held that the impact of the plaintiff’s education was not from the abuse but his intention to join the Air Force.

The court, however, did accept that the plaintiff’s drug use may have been a partial contributing factor.

Damages were assessed at common law rather than under the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW). The plaintiff made a total claim for damages of approximately six million dollars. However, ultimately, the Court awarded damages of roughly $1.33 million dollars, made up of the following:

  • General Damages (including interest): $414,000.00
  • Past loss of income: $369,550.70
  • Future loss of income: $456,243.40
  • Loss of superannuation: $70,510.50
  • Medical expenses: $20,000.00

The plaintiff’s claim for exemplary damages was rejected because such damages would not be beneficial in deterring or punishing the perpetrator, who was deceased at the time of trial.

Conclusion – Institutional Sexual Abuse

This case sheds light on the liability of institutions for the acts of their employees and agents in circumstances where they knew or ought to have known that the employee may have a history of acting inappropriately misbehaving towards minors. It also confirms that a plaintiff can succeed in a claim for compensation for historical sexual abuse notwithstanding the death of a perpetrator.

How Evolve Legal Can Assist with Institutional Sexual Abuse Claims

Institutional sexual abuse can inflict profound physical and psychological harm on individuals, impacting not only their well-being but also that of their support network. Seeking compensation can facilitate access to professional assistance, providing victims with the necessary resources to rebuild their lives. Consulting with an experienced abuse lawyer can be crucial in securing appropriate compensation. Our team of personal injury lawyers has extensive experience handling such cases, guiding victims through the legal process with discretion and empathy. We have a thorough understanding of abuse laws and are well-prepared to help you regain control of your life. If you have experienced institutional abuse or know someone who has, and wishes to seek rightful compensation, please do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential initial consultation.