Rita and George Chaina have endured 15 years of heartbreak.
Their 15-year-old son Nathan died in the most tragic of circumstances, drowning on a school camp in October 1999 as his horrified brother looked on.
Now the Chaina family has been dealt a fresh blow, having been ordered to pay $8 million in legal costs — a sum that eclipses the payout they received in relation to Nathan’s death, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The order is the latest development in a sad and sometimes strange 12-year legal battle, over the course of which the Chaina family rejected several offers of settlement.
The tragic event
Nathan Chaina, a year 10 student at the prestigious Scots College in Sydney, drowned when he fell into a flooded river at Kangaroo Valley. Nathan had been trying to cross the water on a school hiking trip at the school’s Glengarry campus at the time.
His distraught brother Matthew, 14 at the time, had to be restrained from jumping into the river after him.
A 2011 coronial inquest found the school liable for the boy’s death, saying it had ignored weather reports and failed to train the boys to deal with extreme conditions.
The Chainas launched a legal battle with Scots College in 2002, suing the school and the Presbyterian Church — which owns Scots — for damages for nervous shock.
They also initially claimed between $100 million and $300 million in damages relating to the effect of Nathan’s death on their business: As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, the devastated family claimed they’d been prevented from launching a new laundry detergent that could have made millions in profits.
The settlements they rejected
On 16 May, the family and their two businesses were awarded just under $500,000 in compensation, The Guardian reports.
The sum, to be paid by the school’s operator, the Presbyterian Church Property Trust, is a mere fraction of the tens of millions they had sought.
On Thursday Justice Davies said that sum would come to a total of $529,131 including interest — but also ordered the Chaina family to pay legal costs of $8.3 million.