Abuse Law – Case Law Update – Damages

Van Haren v Van Ryn [2023] NSWSC 776  

In the recent matter of Van Haren v Van Ryn [2023] NSWSC 776, the plaintiff, Mr Edan Van Haren, had commenced civil proceedings on 8 February 2022 in which he sought damages from the defendant, Mr Maurice Van Ryn, as a result of psychological injuries (the plaintiff was diagnosed with major depression and post traumatic stress disorder) sustained as a result of historical childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by the defendant.  

The plaintiff alleges that from 2010 to 2012 when the plaintiff was aged approximately 14 to 15 years old, the plaintiff was repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted by the defendant, with the majority of the abuse incidents occurring in the defendant’s then home in Tathra, New South Wales, as well as some incidents of abuse occurring in the defendant’s car within the area. The defendant was the neighbour of the plaintiff’s then school friend in which the plaintiff often visited his school friend’s family’s home. The plaintiff’s then school friend’s family was family friends with the defendant, and from this friendship the plaintiff’s school friend would regularly go to the defendant’s house without his family – and if the plaintiff was visiting his school friend, the plaintiff would also go to the defendant’s house with him. The plaintiff submits that he does not believe that his then school friend was ever witness to any of the sexual abuse perpetrated upon the plaintiff by the defendant, despite the school friend being at the house at the same time.  

On 13 March 2018, the plaintiff provided a statement to the police in relation to the abuse by the defendant. The defendant was prosecuted following the plaintiff’s complaint, and subsequently convicted and sentenced.  

The defendant filed a Defence making a number of admissions in connection with some of the offending conduct, however, in communication to the Court the defendant advised that the defence would be withdrawn and that the defendant did not wish to participate in the hearing of the plaintiff’s claim in any manner. In those circumstances, it was appropriate to proceed without the defendant’s participation. Of note, the defendant, nevertheless, appeared via video link at the hearing.  

On 5 July 2023, the Court found in favour of the plaintiff (with damages as set out in the paragraph below) and ordered that the defendant pay the plaintiff’s costs of the proceedings.  

In regards to the damages awarded to the plaintiff, the Court provided the following:

General Damages including aggravated and exemplary damages 
$500,0000.00 
Interest on General Damages
$26,000.00 
Past Loss of Earning Capacity 
$255,000.00 
Interest on Past Loss of Earning Capacity 
$31,875.00 
Past Loss of Superannuation 
$28,050.00 
Interest on Past Loss of Superannuation 
$3,506.25 
Future Loss of Earning Capacity 
$506,260.00 
Future Loss of Superannuation 
$55,688.60 
Future Out-of-Pocket Expenses 
$10,450.00 
TOTAL: 
$1,416,829.85 

We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today. 

Further Abuse Law information and case law updates written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.

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