It sounds as if the company put its employees through a severe variation of the old "encounter groups" therapy. At the time it did that, such therapy had already been largely abandoned because it often did more harm than good. But 13 years later the company is still denying that the procedure damaged one of their empoyees. They have amazing faith in quacks -- to the point where it has cost them lots more in legal bills that it would have cost them to settle the damages claim in the first place! There was even an advance warning that the "course" could harm the employee concerned!
THE FAMILY of a man who has endured a 13-year legal battle with Bluescope Steel over a debilitating pyschiatric injury has begged the company to do what is right and end their "living hell". The case relates to an eight-day leadership retreat that former BlueScope employee Angus Mackinnon attended in August, 1996. The "Steel Leadership Course" featured drum-beating, interrogations and "psychodrama'', The Australian reports.
Dr Mackinnon, a doctor at BlueScope's occupational health and safety department in Wollongong at the time, suffered hallucinations, was found lying unresponsive on the floor at and ended up in a mental hospital within days of the course concluding. He later had to have electro-convulsive therapy and has been hospitalised a number of times. Ever since, Dr Mackinnon has been locked in litigation with the company in a negligence case that has cost $15 million and is likely to cost millions more.
It is probably the longest and most expensive personal injury litigation case that has take place in New South Wales, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. The paper also reports that the costs of the case have run to $15 million. The case could have been settled for $1.3m but Bluescope has held out, spending far more than that on legal fees and recently lodging a bid with the High Court to overturn a judgment where three judges unanimously found in Dr Mackinnon's favour.
"It's just the brutality of it ... the way they went for me in court without any compassion,'' Dr Mackinnon told The Australian of the effect the ongoing litigation was having on him and his family. "They knew the severity of my illness and the impact it was having on me but they didn't stop.''
The Mackinnons have sold their home unit to fund the court case against BlueScope, as well as pay for ongoing medical treatment, and have been forced to live with his wife's parents, sleeping in the same room as their two young children.
The original case took 94 days and Dr Mackinnon lost the trial. But a subsequent appeal saw three NSW Court of Appeal judges unanimously decide in Dr Mackinnon's favour. The judgment was scathing of the trial judge. The treatment of a crucial issue in the case was "so inadequate" that "the matter would have to go back to retrial in any event", the judges said.
Dr Mackinnon's wife, Nandy, has writen to each Bluescope board member individually, telling them of the "living hell'' she and her husband have endured for 13 years after reading the company's claim that its values reflected its motto that "our strength is in choosing what to do is right''. She says she is "perplexed" as to how the company, and its shareholders, could justify the ongoing litigation. The company has never responded.
BlueScope declined to comment but has denied in the courts that it has been negligent or that there was any breach of duty owed to Dr Mackinnon.
The Sydney couple say they are "not asking for the world" - they just want to be able to pay the medical bills and live in their own home.
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