A young man who was left with extensive burns after a homemade fire pit exploded has been awarded more than £380k in damages.
Tre Lawson, who was 17 at the time of the incident, was at his friend’s birthday party in Gunnedah, New South Wales, Australia, in November 2016 when he was involved in the incident.
His friend's dad, Raymond Hubbard, poured an accelerant onto the flames causing an explosion and "substantial burns" to 44% of his skin, including his face, court documents state.
He was also left with horrific scarring to large areas of his body, both of his arms and both of his legs.
Mr Lawson also suffered shock from the incident and struggles with post-traumatic stress.
He was airlifted to Royal North Shore Hospital where he remained for a month and underwent multiple skin grafting procedures.
Skin grafts were harvested from his back and thighs, leaving him with more scars on his limbs.
The court heard Mr Lawson, now 21, has been left with significantly disfiguring scars from those burns and from the related procedures that were used to treat the burns.
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Since the incident, the court heard Mr Lawson had struggled with both physical and mental issues.
Despite giving his evidence in a “stoic and understated manner”, District Court Judge Leonard Levy SC said “it was evident that (Mr Lawson’s) disabilities bothered him significantly and cause him physical and psychological difficulties”.
“He internalises the psychological problems that have been caused by his scarring,” Judge Levy said.
“Although he has found a way of dealing with, and making light of intrusive questions about his scarring, he finds that he is regularly subjected to questions and curiosity about them. His reactions are largely internalised, which may not be a good thing for his longer term wellbeing.”
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The court heard Mr Lawson hoped to get a mining apprenticeship after leaving high school however his loss of mobility also caused him to lose that career.
Mr Lawson “couldn’t face” returning to school to complete year 12 and dropped out of his metal and engineering TAFE course, knowing he would no longer be able to pursue that career.
He instead took up a barbering TAFE course however is unable to do a number of tasks required of him.
“This will undoubtedly limit his future employability and earning capacity in that field when he soon qualifies as a barber,” court documents read.
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“Such restrictions in his manual dexterity will also apply to many other types of physical work and work involving interaction with the public.”
Mr Lawson also suffers from “embarrassment and self-consciousness due to the scarring” and his scars are painful.
“They are vulnerable to contractures and injury. He suffers from skin tightness and skin dryness in the scarred areas. He must avoid sun exposure of the scarred areas.
“He finds it necessary to use creams, moisturisers, vitamin E oil, and other skin treatments which will involve him incurring regular recurring expenditure over his lifetime. He must also strive to control his weight as the grafted areas will not stretch,” the court heard.
Mr Lawson is also unable to play contact sport, which he previously loved, has trouble sleeping because of nightmares and has a phobia of fires.
He also is unable to properly interact with his two young children, out of fears of tearing his grafts, and cannot exercise heavily.
Mr Hubbard, who appeared via audiovisual link from Gunnedah Court House, did not give evidence and represented himself.
The evidence provided by Mr Lawson was not challenged by Mr Hubbard and the dad “expressed sincere and considerable regret over the events in question”, the court said.
The court Mr Hubbard also organised fundraisers to raise money for Mr Lawson and other people burnt in the explosion.
In total Mr Lawson was awarded AUD$670,200 in damages. Mr Hubbard was also ordered to pay Mr Lawson’s legal costs.
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