Compensation claim outside 3 years: Plaintiffs escape time bar on “Battery”; do PIPA & CLA apply?
Three patrons who allege they were assaulted by police officer Adam Reedy at the Hotel Cunnamulla in May 2005 commenced proceedings for “general, aggravated and exemplary damages” for false imprisonment, assault and battery in February 2011.
The two female plaintiffs allege he grabbed them by their hair and shoulders and pulled and punched them. The first plaintiff was also allegedly dragged by the policeman through the hotel by her neck around which he had his arm.
As you might expect, Reedy and the State (whom the plaintiffs contend is also liable vicariously) argue the claim is one for personal injury as a result of which it is time barred and that the pre-court requirements of the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act (PIPA) as well as the restrictions of the Civil Liability Act (CLA) apply.
That the alleged acts occurred “without the plaintiffs sustaining any bruising, hair loss or other manifestation of a personal injury”, said defendants before the District Court last month, “belies belief”.
The plaintiffs’ position was that the claims are not for personal injury and thus the limitation period was 6 years (not three) and that because PIPA did not apply, the pre-court procedures are irrelevant. Furthermore, they assert, they are entitled to a jury trial given that the CLA and in particular s 73 thereof, has no application.
Their contention was that neither injury nor damage is a necessary element of either assault or battery and that they had carefully pleaded the case so as to avoid a claim based on any tort giving rise to personal injury.
Distinguishing Coffey v Queensland where the plaintiff had been unable to “separate out personal injury aspects from his claims”, his honour was strongly of the view that “the proceeding has nothing to do with personal injury”.
“The plaintiffs have the advantage of being in a position to plead a case without asserting personal injury and, in my view, they have done it.”
The claims will proceed to trial before a jury in the coming months.