THE damages payout for a sexual assault victim of former Albury priest and convicted paedophile Vincent Kiss has risen to more than $4 million after the Catholic church failed in its appeal of a jury verdict.
However, Supreme Court judge Stephen O'Meara has rejected all arguments and ordered that interest of $462,000 be paid on damages for past pain and suffering and interest of $390,353 be paid on damages for past economic loss.
Those figures are on top of the $1.3 milllion and damages sums of $1.1 million for pain and suffering, $896,000 for past economic loss and $69,000 for future economic loss that were determined by the jury.
The bishop's legal team had argued against the exemplary damages on the basis the Civil Liability Act precluding such payouts, there was no evidence of the bishop being aware of TJ's 1968 complaint and the use of language around the matter.
Justice O'Meara did not accept that section 21 of the Civil Liability Act "should operate to displace the verdict of the jury in respect of exemplary damages", noting there had been an admission of vicarious liability.
In relation to the then bishop not knowing of the 1968 complaint against Kiss that was made to a curate in Albury's St Patrick Parish, Justice O'Meara noted TJ was heavily involved in the Wagga diocese, being an altar boy at the cathedral.
"It seems to me to have been open to the jury to conclude, on the evidence, that the bishop had failed to take any action in respect of the complaint....and thereby created the circumstances where Father Kiss had later groomed and abused the plaintiff and for which the defendant has now admitted he was vicariously liable," Justice O'Meara said.
A statement of former Bishop of Wagga Gerard Hanna to the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse was also quoted by Justice O'Meara.
"In short the Bishop of Wagga Wagga and other leaders of 'the Catholic church acknowledged that - (a) sexual abuse of a child 'was then and is now indefensible'; (b) such abuse has had a 'devastating, deep and ongoing impact'," he said.
On the final grounds, which saw the church's counsel state in her final address that Bishop Edwards did not admit the allegations, equating it to 'I do not know' rather than 'it didn't happen', Justice O'Meara said it was open to the jury to not accept those assertions.
The verdict was the first from a jury against the Catholic church in Australia, as well as the first awarding of punitive damages.
Legal firm Arnold Thomas and Becker, which represented TJ, has received three new claims from victims of Kiss following publicity over the jury's decision.
They relate to offences in the Riverina, some of which have been subject to criminal proceedings, and are in the processing of being lodged in the court.
Kiss, 91, is now on bail awaiting sentence after being found guilty by a jury in the District Court in Sydney of four counts of indecent assault and one of buggery, after having previously received a jail term in excess of 10 years.