A former Australian National University (ANU) student who successfully sued John XXIII College for breach of its duty of care has cut her payout by more than $150,000.
Most important points:
- The woman initially received a payout of more than $400,000
- The college appealed the decision, arguing that she was a 20-year-old adult and that they had not breached their duty of care.
- Today, the Court of Appeals upheld the earlier ruling but limited its interpretation, lowering the woman’s payout to $267,000
The woman said she was raped in an alleyway near the Mooseheads nightlife in Canberra in 2015 after she and others were thrown from college after a drinking session.
The woman had been involved in an event known as “pub golf,” in which participants were expected to drink a certain number of drinks to make “par.”
The woman had no memory of the alleged assault, but discovered it later when others told her that the other party had joked about it.
The woman successfully sued the college and the ACT Supreme Court awarded her more than $420,000 for damages, medical expenses and economic loss.
The main question in the case was whether the college breached its duty of care by forcing the intoxicated students to leave the university campus and committed a further breach in the staff’s handling of the situation.
On the appeal, the college disputed facts, including that the woman was intoxicated when she left the college, that the college was aware of or approved of “pub golf”, that the head of the college took a position at the time to reputation, and that the students were instructed to vacate the premises, rather than simply leave the residential area.
The court heard that the woman, as a 20-year-old adult, voluntarily participated in the social event, and that there was no duty of care to her in her response.
The Court of Appeal today confirmed the earlier ruling, but qualified its interpretation, allowing the appeal in part.
“However, with regard to the direction to leave the college, the evidence has not shown, in our view, that the students would have taken a different course in general, and [the woman and the person accused of rape] in particular, the instruction to leave the college was not given.
“The finding of the first judge was that the Board violated its duty of care in the handling of [the] complaint and that was the main cause of the plaintiff’s psychiatric injuries and disability.”
The woman’s payout was reduced to $267,000, and she has been ordered to pay a number of legal fees.