Recently in Australia Category

At least not unless she loses some weight (Paul Chapman and Graeme Baker, "New Zealand bars British man's 'fat' wife", Daily Telegraph, Nov. 21; Zycher, Medical Progress Today, Nov. 21). Australia "last year refused citizenship to a healthy British woman who wasn't heavy enough." (Aida Edemarian, "Are you too fat to emigrate?", Guardian, Nov. 20).

Tas Sinadinos was fired by his employer in Australia after it found he had used a company credit card for "inappropriate and unacceptable" personal spending including thousands of dollars for escort services. He sued for unfair dismissal and argued that such expenses "could be considered entertainment" and that the need for "company" was "not dissimilar" to other expenses for a relocating executive such as fitting out a new apartment. An Industrial Court judge was not receptive, asking whether Sinadinos lived in the "real world". (Jennifer Cooke, "Escorts a work expense, court told", Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 13) (via Stumblng Tumblr).

Sues over having twins

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An Australian woman asked that her in vitro fertilization (IVF) result in a single baby but two embryos were mistakenly implanted. Now she wants $A400,000 for the cost of raising the child to adulthood. ("Mother sues doctor over twin birth", ABC (Australian) News, Sept. 18)(via KevinMD). The local branch of the Australian Medical Association says the law should be changed to prevent damage claims over the birth of unimpaired babies: "We're very concerned [at] the concept that a healthy life is wrongful." ("Doctors should not be liable for mistake births: AMA", Sept. 22). More on wrongful birth lawsuits here.

Behrouz Foroughi, 43, says he volunteered for the exclusion list at the Star City casino and was told he would be denied entry, but was admitted anyway and lost large sums due to his gambling compulsion. (Gemma Jones, Daily Telegraph, Jun. 19). Similar claims have been tried a number of times in the U.S. but without much success: see Apr. 28, 2004, Apr. 19, 2005, Nov. 22, 2005 (France), etc.

Now it's Australia where food writers are getting nervous: the country's High Court decided that Sydney Morning Herald critic Matthew Evans had defamed the Coco Roco restaurant in 2003 in a review:

The flavours of the limoncello oysters "jangled like a car crash", he wrote, while the sherry-scented apricot white sauce on a steak was a "wretched garnish".

Overall, he concluded that "more than half the dishes I've tried at Coco Roco are simply unpalatable".

The ruling does not however preclude the defendants from offering defenses as proceedings continue in the case. (Deborah Cameron and Helen Westerman, "Ruling leaves sour taste for food critics", Melbourne Age, Jun. 15; Barbara McMahon, "Review of meal that 'jangled like a car crash' deemed defamatory", The Guardian, Jun. 16). Eoin O'Dell at the Irish law site Cearta.ie has assembled a substantial links list on this and earlier restaurant-review lawsuits from various countries (Jun. 16). Previously at this site: Mar. 10, etc.

A 19-year-old Australian who fell from a tree and was left quadriplegic after a failed suicide attempt has failed in his effort to lay legal blame on a mental hospital that had discharged him eleven days earlier. Timothy Walker "sued the Sydney West Health Service for negligence, claiming not enough was done to care for him prior to the accident. He claimed the hospital should have prescribed him anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medication, counselled him and detained him as an involuntary patient for at least two weeks for assessment." However, a judge found that the health service had not rendered substandard care, that it properly declined to prescribe antidepressants because Walker would not promise to stay off liquor, and that it had followed up with home visits after Walker's discharge, during which he reported feeling better. Walker will, at least notionally, be liable for the hospital's legal expenses under the rule that costs follow the event (sometimes known as the "everywhere-but-America rule"). (Alyssa Braithwaite, "Would-be suicider fails in hospital sue bid", AAP/Daily Telegraph, May 25). Earlier: May 9.

Australia: "A bullied teenager will receive substantial damages and an income for life after a Supreme Court judge found NSW educational authorities failed in their duty of care to deal with playground assaults and bullying." The court heard testimony that Benjamin Cox, now 18 years of age, was severely bullied at school by an older, disturbed pupil. 'In her judgement, delivered today, Justice Carolyn Simpson commented that Mr Cox's "adolescence has been all but destroyed; his adulthood will not be any better. He will never know the satisfaction of employment. He will suffer anxiety and depression, almost certainly, for the rest of his life'". Cox's mother said that because of the bad experience with classmates her son "didn't like crowds, he didn't like teachers, didn't like the work," and "just locks himself in his room playing PlayStation games". The New South Wales state government may appeal the A$1 million verdict. (Leonie Lamont, Sydney Morning Herald, May 14; "Govt considers appeal on bullied boy", AAP/Melbourne Age, May 22).

"A man who fell from a tree after an aborted suicide bid is suing a Sydney health service, claiming not enough was done to treat his depression ahead of the accident." Timothy Walker decided to kill himself 11 days after his discharge from a psychiatric facility, but instead was left a quadriplegic. He "is suing the Wentworth Area Health Service for negligence, claiming not enough was done to care for him" and that he should have been given medication. (Lisa Allan and Kim Arlington, "Man sues over aborted suicide tree fall", AAP/The Australian, Apr. 16)(via LegalJuice). Update Jun. 6: judge rejects case.

Reasonable foreseeability? "A woman has won nearly $240,000 compensation from RailCorp after a judge ruled she was raped because she had broken her ankle weeks earlier at a Sydney railway station. RailCorp was found responsible for the woman's rape at a private home, because she could not escape with her leg in plaster, and for her subsequent depression." (Geesche Jacobsen, "A fall, a rape - and $240,000", Sydney Morning Herald, Apr. 26).

Defamation-suit Hall of Fame: a New Zealand prisoner serving a life sentence for the notoriously brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl has won cash compensation from newspapers which described him as a rapist. "Andrew Ronald MacMillan was granted legal aid - a government- funded scheme which allows people who cannot afford legal representation to get a lawyer - to sue Fairfax Media, publishers of New Zealand newspapers The Press and Dominion Post, for defamation and punitive damages." The victim, whose body was discovered nearly naked, had suffered violence in intimate places, but authorities never charged MacMillan with rape in the case. ("Murderer gets compensation from paper over rape allegation", DPA/MonstersAndCritics.com, Apr. 10). Two and a half years ago MacMillan won $1200 for hurt feelings and humiliation because the Corrections Department had not shown him the text of a letter accusing him of misbehavior while on prison furlough. (Bridget Carter, "'Hurt feelings' win killer $1200 compensation", New Zealand Herald, Aug. 23, 2004).

"Sperm donor kids win estate"

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Most memorable detail: the kids used "tweezers to pluck his eyebrows for DNA testing as he lay dead in a hospital morgue." The fact pattern in this Australian case was not exactly typical, however: the donor had had a previous romantic relationship with the children's mother, who subsequently used his donations to conceive three times without informing her lawful husband that the kids were not his. (Janet Fife-Yeomans, AAP/PerthNow, Mar. 16).

Updating the Oct. 3 item from Australia: "Law firm Slater & Gordon was within its rights to pay a senior partner $1 million from the profits of a breast implant class action without informing clients, according to the Law Institute of Victoria. The bonus, which came to light this week, means senior partner Peter Gordon received at least eight times more from the class action than any one of the firm's 3100 clients. Their payouts ranged from a few hundred dollars up to $120,000. However, law institute head Michael Brett Young said yesterday there had been no need to inform the women about the payment to Mr Gordon because the settlement in the action had been authorised by a judge." (Chris Merritt and Tracy Ong, "Law firm 'in rights' on payout", The Australian, Sept. 16). For allegations that the $1 million was improperly paid to Mr. Slater although earmarked as "post-settlement expenses", see the Oct. 3 post.

Teachers are being warned to watch what they write and say about students because of the risk of being sued for defamation. ...

The advice comes as anger has exploded in schools over new student reports which grade students on a scale of A to E for academic performance. ...

Teachers' Federation vice-president Angelo Gavrielatos said threats to sue meant Australia was "importing the worst of American culture".

"It reflects, regrettably, that we do live in an increasingly litigious society and that is sad," he said.

"All too often we hear threats of litigation . . . and what we are seeing imported into Australia and into our schools is that litigious environment or mindset that is so prevalent in the United States."

(Bruce McDougall, "Teachers warned off criticism", News.com.au, Nov. 6 (via Jacobs via Tongue Tied)).

When schools fall short

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Australia: "A settlement between a leading Melbourne private school and a parent who said her child had not been taught to read properly could result in increased litigation between parents and schools, a principals group has warned." Yvonne Meyer faulted Brighton Grammar School for not placing enough emphasis on phonics-based instruction for her child. (David Rood and Chee Chee Leung, "Litigation warning as private school settles complaint over child's literacy", Melbourne Age, Aug. 16; Ewin Hannan and Justine Ferrari, "Private schools to curtail promises", The Australian, Aug. 16). And in France: "A French schoolboy [Jérome Charasse] has successfully sued the government after blaming his failure in a philosophy exam on his teacher's frequent absences during strikes. Parents' groups and teaching unions believe the decision by a court in Clermont-Ferrand will lead to many similar cases." (Colin Randall, " Boy wins court case over striking teacher", Daily Telegraph, Jun. 22)(h/t D.N.).

Following up on our Sept. 22 post: Australia's Attorney General Philip Ruddock says his office will appeal against a judge's award of extensive public land holdings in and around the city of Perth to aboriginal tribes. (Amanda Banks and Rhianna King, "Ruddock confirms native title appeal as State payout tipped", The West Australian, Oct. 6; Stephanie Peatling, "Ruddock to challenge native title ruling over Perth", Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 6; Ben Martin and Amanda Banks, "Hills parks open to native title: judge", Oct. 4).

Australia: "Leading plaintiff lawyer Peter Gordon from the firm Slater & Gordon was paid a $1 million bonus he was not entitled to from the profits of a massive class action over faulty breast implants. A disgruntled former partner has alleged the $1 million bonus was paid directly to Mr Gordon despite having been earmarked by the firm as 'post-settlement expenses'." The allegations filed in court by the former partner, Paul Mulvany, offer "a rare insight into the inner workings of Australia's best known no-win, no-fee law firm". However, the insight-window appears to have snapped shut with great rapidity: "one day after Slater & Gordon was informed The Australian had obtained the court documents, the matter was settled with neither side commenting on the sudden resolution of their dispute." (Katherine Towers and Dan Box, The Australian, Sept. 15). P.S. Not all will agree with the opinion of the contestants in the brawl that the silicone implants at issue were "faulty".

In Australia, at least, it seems this whole land claims and reparations business is getting rather serious. "The judgment will not affect homes or businesses, as the Australian courts have ruled that native title does not apply to land owned on a freehold or long-lease basis." However, if the judgment is upheld against an expected appeal by the state of Western Australia, descendents of natives may win the right to convert public lands in the city (such as urban parks) into permanent encampments, and boaters worry that control over the right to use waterways may also be affected. (Kathy Marks, The Independent (U.K.), Sept. 21; "Native title could lock up parks: Ruddock", AAP/The Australian, Sept. 22; Chris Merritt and Patricia Karvelas, "Title win boosts capital city claims", The Australian, Sept. 21). Perth is a city of 1.5 million. A native claim over land in Melbourne and its environs is expected next. (Ben Packham, "Native title claim looms", Herald-Sun, Sept. 21).

One of the more notorious lawsuits in modern Australian history finally reaches a conclusion as rival opera troupes agree to split the bequest of the late Melva Thompson, who died four years ago at 95. Of her A$2 million benefaction, more than $800,000 has been eaten up on legal fees. (Corrie Perkin, The Australian, Sept. 6).

An Australian QC has appeared in court to argue that vilifying a religion should be considered per se unlawful under the state of Victoria's paradoxically named Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. "[Brind] Woinarski was appearing for the Islamic Council of Victoria in the appeal by Christian group Catch the Fire Ministries and pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot against a finding under Victoria's religious hatred law that they vilified Muslims in 2002. The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act defines vilification as inciting hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against a person or class of persons." (Barney Zwartz, "Religion in the dock in Muslim vilification appeal", Melbourne Age, Aug. 22; "Questions over ruling on Muslims", Aug. 23). See Dec. 19 and Dec. 3, 2004, etc.

Some headlines just seem meant to keep tabloids in business, but in this case the report appears in the undeniably respectable Sydney Morning Herald. Among the key claims of transsexual Maddison Hall, who at the time of a 1989 murder conviction was known as Noel Crompton Hall, was that "a guard kept calling her 'him'". (Tim Dick, Sydney Morning Herald, Aug. 15).

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