A man who was sexually abused by known paedophiles "masquerading as religious teachers" at Marist College Canberra was improperly pressured by his lawyer into settling his claim, a judge has found.
But despite Justice Michael Elkaim's scathing assessment of the lawyer Jason Parkinson's actions he still found the abuse victim's case had to fail because of technical limitations in the law.
In 2008, the man decided to seek compensation for the abuse he had been subjected to by the brothers at Marist College in Canberra in the 1980s, including the notorious paedophiles Brother John "Kostka" Chute, Brother Gregory Sutton and teacher Paul Lyons.
On the advice of Mr Parkinson he settled a claim against the brothers in 2010 for $80,000, receiving $42,000 after costs.
In 2016, the ACT removed the time limit on bringing child sexual abuse suits. The lawyer "reopened" the case in 2017 and negotiated another $33,000, from which the man received $27,500.
The abuse survivor later sued Mr Parkinson in the ACT Supreme Court, alleging professional negligence arising from a breach of retainer. Mr Parkinson denied the allegations, pointing in part to the problems that would have come from going to trial.
He believed the man would have been an unreliable witness, that these cases were at the time regularly lost because of the limitation period, as well as the Marist brothers' obstructive attitude to litigation.
But Justice Elkaim found the lawyer had improperly and unnecessarily pressured the man - a vulnerable victim of sexual abuse - into accepting the settlement, including by presenting the option at a last-minute meeting before the offer was about to expire and not giving the man time to think about it.
The lawyer had also made much about about the unusual nature of the man's allegations.
The judge said: "I do not see any credit issue against the plaintiff arising if the matter had gone to trial. Every allegation was unusual. The plaintiff was disclosing the most perverse and unusual conduct of assorted paedophiles masquerading as religious teachers. The plaintiff was asked to be a "Christian soldier" while he was being abused. Everything was unusual."
Despite his findings, Justice Elkaim also said the survivor's case had to fail.
The 2010 claim was outside the six-year limitation period. In the 2017 claim, it was because of limitations that meant there was no avenue for the lawyer to reopen the case within the bounds of the earlier 2010 retainer.
Justice Elkaim said damages on 2010 claim would have been $123,585, but he was unable to calculate damages on the second claim because of a lack of information.
He ordered the parties pay their own costs.
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