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Mike's Editorial: Susan Couch case sends a message

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| Thursday, December 06, 2012 10:28 AM

Mike's Editorial: Susan Couch case sends a message

You can't help but feel good for Susan Couch.

As we've heard, she's on the verge of a deal with Corrections, she should have a cheque by the end of the week. You have to admire, given what she's been through, the will to fight because most wouldn't. We don't have a system in this country that allows us to tackle government departments but in taking them on, she might well have opened the door for others and the worry of course is she might well have opened the door too widely.

The Supreme Court allowed her to sue the department for $500,000 - that was a precedent in itself. But they contained the amount and they also prevented her from having a jury decide. Those are critical decisions. As much as you might like Susan Couch to get compensated for what she's been through, what you don't want is the natural extension of where all this is going if it's getting left unchecked. Where it's going is directly towards the American way of doing things.

Our way of doing things of course is ACC. You get injured and you get looked after, except you don't get looked after, not always. ACC for all its universality has far too many faults. A no-fault system is flawed in the cases where it was someone's fault and that someone needs to be taught a lesson. ACC doesn't teach them a lesson. When Corrections writes that cheque out, it will focus the mind as it should given their level of incompetence in all of this.

But if Susan Couch hadn't been contained by the court and had got a jury trial and had been allowed to sue for an unlimited amount, where would it have ended? Setting that sort of precedent wouldn't have opened the door, you would've opened the flood gates. Before you know it the handful of genuine cases and causes like her's would've been lost in the stampede of opportunistic cases led by lawyers who see nothing more than dollar signs and claimants who are blinded to the pressures and uncertainties of such litigation by the briefs who dress it all up as a cash bonanza on a no win, no fee basis.

The great hope out of the Couch case is it has what they call in legal circles a 'chilling effect', that the weight, humiliation and exposure of a government department writing out a very large cheque as a direct result of them not doing their job properly and as such forever altering a person's life in a profound way would mean it doesn't happen again. Well that's the theory. But then, this is a government department.

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