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"Damages" Re: when a suit is in the rong?

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2003 09:37:25 +1100
Cc: "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
To: "Jon Hanna" <jon@spin.ie>
Message-Id: <2FACA8DC-5E49-11D7-957F-000A95678F24@sidar.org>

In the case of SOCOG vs Maguire (the Sydney Olympics case) damages were  
set based on the fact that Bruce Maguire had suffered by not being able  
to participate in the general enjoyment of the Olympics. This is like  
"pain and suffering" suffered in addition to things that have a clear  
money value, like loss of earnings or hospital costs, and is well  
established in law. You can read the reasoning of the commissioner in  
Maguire vs SOCOG online:  
DD000200.htm - it's a few paragraphs summing up what the problems are  
and a few about what damage was suffered. It doesn't explain exactly  
how the $20,000 was chosen, but the assumption is that this is  
consistent with damage assessments in similar cases.

This case shows another interesting point of Australian disability law:  
It is designed primarily  to solve problems. In the case of the ticket  
books (which was part of Maguire vs SOCOG) the initial finding was that  
SOCOG should make accessible ticket books and ensure Mr Maguire got one  
and could get tickets to the Olympics, since a cost of about $20,000  
was reasonable given they spent a bit over 7 million dollars on making  
ticket books. This finding is also online, separately, at  

Note that these are cases in Australia. Different countries have  
different approaches and set wildly different monetary damages in this  
area. In some places there is a strong requirement that damages are set  
consistently. In other places a jury sets damages with very little  
requirement for consistency.

In addition there is a concept of "exemplary or punitive damages" which  
are not really based on the damage done to the individual, but are  
meant to be a deterrent to people thinking there is no damage. Again  
this is well established in law, although not as common. Basically it  
is the idea that the damage sustained is one thing, but the defendant  
should pay more than that purely as punishment for their having caused  
those damages.

Finally, a court will not award damages if (in the opinion of the  
court) there has been no damage done. Occasionally they will award  
nominal damages (perhaps one penny), for example to discourage  
frivolous litigation. They may also require costs to be paid as a way  
of discouraging people from bringing trivial suits. (But there are also  
cases of this tactic being used as a way of sliencing dissent...)



On Tuesday, Mar 25, 2003, at 03:14 Australia/Melbourne, Jon Hanna wrote:

>> In today's letigeous society, it is sad that it is possible even
>> though all
>> that can be done has been done that an entity can still be sued
>> for lack of
>> accessibility or in any case, compliance with someone's idea of
>> accessibility even though the site is accessible.
> How could a court set damages if no damage was done?
Charles McCathieNevile           charles@sidar.org
Fundación SIDAR                       http://www.sidar.org
Received on Monday, 24 March 2003 17:37:33 UTC

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