THE Bishop of Wagga's lawyers will mount a legal argument against a decision to award $1.3 million in exemplary damages to a victim of convicted paedophile and former Albury priest Vincent Kiss.
The punitive sum was awarded by a Victorian Supreme Court jury to the victim, known as TJ, after he took legal action against the Catholic diocese for being negligent in failing to protect him from Kiss.
The six-member jury also awarded TJ $1.1 million for pain and suffering and $965,000 for loss of earnings, when it made its decision last Friday after a civil trial.
The church had claimed he was only entitled to $250,000 in damages for pain and suffering.
It was the first jury verdict against the Catholic church in Australia and the first awarding of punitive damages against the institution.
However, the Bishop of Wagga's legal team will return to the Supreme Court on Friday November 17 to argue before Justice Stephen O'Meara against the $1.3 million.
Its case will be based on various legal arguments, including that the church cannot be held liable for punitive damages under the NSW Civil Liability Act.
The plaintiff is being represented by Arnold, Thomas and Becker Lawyers, with principal Kim Price saying their side will be arguing for the retention of the $1.3 million as well as claiming $1 million in interest.
Even though the Catholic diocese is based in NSW and Kiss' criminal offending occurred there, the civil action has been taken in Victoria because TJ is resident in that state.
Three of them reached a settlement with the church with TJ's case going to trial after an agreement could not be reached.
A former altar boy, TJ had first met Kiss at Wagga's St Michael's Cathedral in the early 1970s, when he was 14, and suffered abuse over two years in various locations, including Lake Hume.
Kiss was the youth director of the Wagga diocese after having served at Sacred Heart church in North Albury in the mid-1960s.
In 2002, Kiss pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court to 10 counts of indecent assault and three counts of buggery in relation to offences which occurred between 1966 and 1973 against four teenage boys, including TJ.
Judge Penny Hock jailed him for 10 years and six months, saying he was a paedophile who "displayed calculated, premeditation in his conduct towards the youths".
Kiss, now 91, is now on bail awaiting sentence after being found guilty by a jury in the District Court in Sydney of another four counts of indecent assault and one of buggery.
Bishop of Wagga Mark Edwards said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the civil case, given it is still subject to a further hearing.
Mr Price said the outcome last Friday was likely to give fresh hope of legal success to abuse victims of the church.
"It sets a precedent in terms of the amount that can be awarded against the church and shows others it's not anywhere as difficult as it was," Mr Price said.
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