Man Punched By Bouncer Dies Before Claiming $1.8m Payout
Courtesy of News.com.au- Candace Sutton June 30, 2013
His brain injury was so debilitating he could not thereafter cope with loud noises, cried for no apparent reason, suffered epileptic seizures and found it difficult to be around his grandchildren.
And now Mr Dickson has died before he was able to claim a cent of the $1.8 million compensation payout awarded to him by an Australian court.
And the bouncer, who still works as a hotel security guard, is unlikely ever to pay the money to Mr Dickson’s grieving family as he pleaded poverty.
The tragic incident which changed Mr Dickson’s life happened just after midnight on December 2, 2007, when the New Zealand-born carpenter and keen fisherman was having a quiet Saturday drink with his daughter, Carly, on Oxford Street, in inner-city Sydney.
While hailing a taxi, then 50-year-old Mr Dickson leaned against a parked car which belonged to a bouncer from the Q Bar, in the Exchange Hotel in Darlinghurst.
The car’s alarm sounded and the bouncer came running.
Mr Dickson, who was 170cm tall and weighed 70kg, never had a chance.
Russell Peter Chaffey, 193cm tall, and weighing 120kg, ran across six lanes of traffic and demanded money for “damage” to his car, and when Mr Dickson refused, struck him with an elbow to the temple.
Violence is a regular occurrence on Oxford Street in Sydney. Police and ambulance officers attend a man who was assaulted on Oxford Street in 2009, not far from where Steven Dickson was seriously assaulted two years earlier. Source: News Limited
Mr Dickson landed flat on his back on the road, hitting his head as he fell.
The NSW Supreme Court later heard that as he lay motionless on the road, his daughter Carly Dickson turned to Mr Chaffey and said, “what did you do that for?”.
The bouncer replied “he f—ing hit my car, it’s a $40,000 car, have a look at the dent he put in the bonnet”.
Mr Dickson would never work again.
Before the assault, he had been earning money as a carpenter and handyman at a nearby apartment block.
He had been a healthy middle-aged man. A gentle man, he had enjoyed a good relationship with his two children and grandchildren.
An ambulance took Mr Dickson to hospital, where he was placed in intensive care. He underwent brain surgery and suffered post-traumatic amnesia.
He was transferred to the Brain Injury Unit in Ryde, in north-western Sydney, and then on to Sydney’s Royal Rehabilitation Hospital Sydney, from which he was discharged on February 22, 2008.
Simple tasks were now beyond Mr Dickson, who moved in with his daughter. Soon after his release, Mr Dickson suffered his first epileptic seizure.
Mr Chaffey was charged with Mr Dickson’s assault, but pleaded self defence and was acquitted.
Mr Dickson’s family encouraged him to take civil action against his assailant.
Joshua Dale, a solicitor from Stacks Goudkamp compensation lawyers, told news.com.au he became close to Mr Dickson as they prepared to sue Mr Chaffey for assault and battery in the Supreme Court.
“Perhaps it was a result of the frontal lobe damage he suffered, but Steven had quite a dark sense of humour,” Mr Dale said.
“As I was telling his daughter the other day, he was definitely one of my favourite clients.”
Mr Dickson’s memory, concentration and the speed of his brain function was significantly impaired.
He had difficulty speaking, reading and writing and in managing his personal hygiene. He was listless, prone to headaches and had difficulty in sleeping. He became socially withdrawn.
Mr Dickson’s injury fell into one of the most serious categories, but because he was a New Zealand citizen, he did not qualify for certain social security benefits.
“He slipped through the cracks of a lot of different laws,” Mr Dale said.
Mr Dickson was eventually awarded an invalid’s benefit from the Government, and $62,000 from a New South Wales government fund supporting victims of crime.
His civil suit against Mr Chaffey’s case reached the Supreme Court in 2012.
Over several days of hearings held over several months, Mr Chaffey refused to attend.
Justice Beech-Jones said Mr Dickson “could have looked forward to enjoying a significant number of years of an active and healthy life, with satisfying personal and family relationships. The prospects of all of this are now extremely bleak”.
He said the evidence “satisfies me that [Mr Dickson] was the subject of an unlawful assault” and there was “no possibility” Mr Chaffey was acting in self-defence and ruled he was liable for the injuries sustained.
On October 23 last year, Justice Robert Beech-Jones ruled Mr Chaffey pay a total of $1.83 million for Mr Dickson’s medical expenses, his loss of income and ongoing medical care.
It was a victory, but with little hope of Mr Dickson ever receiving the money. Mr Chaffey was uninsured and Justice Beech-Jones noted, “it is not anticipated that Mr Chaffey will have anywhere near sufficient funds to meet the verdict, if he has any at all”.
The last time Mr Dale spoke with Mr Dickson, a few weeks ago, his client was frustrated with his situation but was coping “as well as can be expected”.
Mr Dickson died alone in his Sydney flat on July 5, aged 55.
His funeral was held in Sydney last week and his ashes were flown back to New Zealand, where his daughters scattered them on the waters of Hawke’s Bay, where Mr Dickson once worked as a commercial fisherman.
The NSW coroner is to conduct an inquest into the cause of Mr Dickson’s death.
“It’s a very sad story,” Mr Dale said. “It was just horrific what happened and his whole life changed in a second. There is no regulation of the security industry in Australia. They can hire anyone and not worry about their background.”
Mr Chaffey now works as a security guard at the Star Hotel in Milton, on the NSW South Coast.
About 3500 Australians every year suffer some form of brain injury due to assault.