Supreme Court rejects parents' $100m claim against Scots College

The decision by the parents of Sydney teenager Nathan Chaina to sue Scots College was entirely understandable.

On October 23, 1999, the 15-year-old fell into a flooded river at Kangaroo Valley and drowned while he and his younger brother, Mathew, who witnessed the tragic accident, were taking part in a hike as part of a school camp.

A coronial inquest found the school was liable for the death because it failed to properly prepare the students for the difficult conditions they faced and ignored the day's weather forecast.

In 2002, Nathan's parents claimed damages for nervous shock and for the effect of their son's death on their cleaning products business.

But judgment handed down in the Supreme Court on Friday reveals that, somewhere during the pursuit of justice for their child, something went badly wrong.

Nathan's parents, George and Rita Chaina, claimed tens of millions of dollars they would have made in potential profits had been lost as a result of the devastating psychological impact of their son's death.

But in awarding the couple $492,373 on Friday - just a fraction of the $100 million they were seeking - Justice Davies found the mental harm suffered by Mr and Mrs Chaina had largely dissipated by 2001.

"Certainly, both of them were not prevented from working in their business after that time by reason of mental harm," the judge found.

"Any inability of Proton [the couple's company] to engage in a relaunch of its industrial products was not caused by the defendants' negligence.''

More disturbingly, the judge said Mr Chaina was not a "witness of truth", finding that he had obfuscated and had given inconsistent answers during his evidence.

"He had a fixed and almost delusional view about himself, his own abilities and expertise and about the success and reputation of his companies, in the face of strong evidence to the contrary," Justice Davies said.

"I generally found Mr Chaina to be dishonest . He said whatever he believed would help him to win this case and obtain very substantial damages. This was at least partly motivated by his desire for vengeance."

In his first statement to the court, in September 2005, Mr Chaina said he had a Bachelor of Science degree from UNSW and had completed a Business and Marketing course.

It later emerged these were lies he had perpetrated for 40 years, along with false claims he had been cherry-picked to work for Procter and Gamble in New York.

"The impression I gained was that he would say anything to improve the claim he was making,'' Justice Davies said in his judgment.

The $492,373 sum does not include interest, which is in dispute and will be the subject of another hearing later this year.

The family appeared dejected by the judge's decision.

"We were trying to do the right thing by the public," Mr Chaina said.

"That's the reason why we did this - so it doesn't happen again."

They have reportedly spent millions of dollars in legal costs, and are now facing the prospect of having to pay not only their own legal costs, but those of the defendants.

The story Supreme Court rejects parents' $100m claim against Scots College first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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