Morrice v Ord [2017] VCC 958

Plaintiff seeking damages after alleged assault.

Mr Morrice, the plaintiff, was out at a nightclub with a group of friends in the early hours of a Sunday morning. Mr Morrice and his friends got into a fight with another group of men.

Afterwards, Mr Morrice left the club to walk his friends to their cars. As he was walking back to the club, Mr Ord – one of the men he was in a fight with earlier – drove past. Mr Ord stopped the car, got out and punched Mr Morrice in the face. Mr Morrice had a broken bone around his eye socket.

Mr Ord is the defendant in this case. He was convicted of assault in the Criminal Court. The plaintiff also sued Mr Ord in the Civil Court, asking that the defendant pay him damages (an amount of money) for the pain and the costs arising out of the plaintiff’s broken eye socket.

The defendant did not file an appearance: this means he did not tell the Court he wanted to appear in court to defend the case. The case proceeded to the next step, which is an assessment of damages by the Court to decide how much the defendant should pay the plaintiff.

A court may reimburse a plaintiff for the plaintiff’s expenses because of the injury and the effect on the plaintiff’s life that is caused by the injury, but the Court must find that the injury was caused by the defendant, and then decide on an amount.

Judgment

This judgment explains what the plaintiff had to prove to the Court to get damages, and how the Court assessed those damages.

The Judge looked at the plaintiff’s medical bills and the costs of the plaintiff’s treatment, as well as the plaintiff’s age and lifestyle before the assault. The Judge also looked at the long term effects of the plaintiff’s injury, such as ongoing pain, discomfort in his left eye, and the psychological effect, because the plaintiff was scared of going out to bars with friends and preferred to stay home.

The Judge balanced this with the fact the plaintiff had returned to work, and that the work involved investigating violent criminal acts, which the plaintiff said he was able to cope with.

The Judge ordered the defendant to pay the plaintiff $100,283 as general damages. The plaintiff asked the Judge to consider increasing the payment (aggravated damages) because the assault was particularly bad, because the defendant punched the plaintiff repeatedly when the plaintiff was already hurt, and because the plaintiff did nothing to provoke the assault.

The Judge sympathised with the plaintiff about how bad the assault was, but found that, when compared with other cases (precedents), the circumstances of this case were not enough to justify a payment of aggravated damages.

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Page last updated: 16 September 2018