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Big Brother producer wins damages

A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE reality TV producer has been awarded $250,000 for economic losses suffered since he broke more than 40 bones in a Gold Coast boating accident.

Neil Richard Balnaves is an Adelaide-born entrepreneur who developed Blue Heelers, The Secret Life of Us and Water Rats but is most well known for bringing Big Brother to Australian screens.

The 68-year-old had liability apportioned against him at 65% in a court action following a collision between his 6.1m runabout and a powerboat in February, 2002, on the Coomera River.

But the philanthropist argued in a Brisbane Supreme Court damages claim that his deteriorating health since the crash resulted in a takeover of his company, Southern Star Group, and him losing income when he stepped down as executive chairman.

Justice John Byrne, in a judgment published on Wednesday, found there was "roughly a one-in-10 chance" Mr Balnaves would not have facilitated Southern Cross Broadcasting's takeover in 2004 had he not been injured.

He said he assessed the economic loss at $250,000 as fair compensation.

"He is a philanthropist who has given tens of millions of dollars to the Balnaves Foundation to support the arts and medical research," he said.

"He is not the kind of man to have thwarted a takeover that he knew offered very substantial benefits to the many other shareholders keen to accept it."

Justice Byrne said Mr Balnaves sustained a fracture of the right pelvis, including the acetabulum.

"The other boat 'smashed', he said, his right leg into his abdomen and 'imploded' his pelvis," he wrote.

Mr Balnaves had a total right hip replacement in October, 2002, but had trouble walking and had ongoing problems such as a right-sided limp and foot drop.

He told a supreme court hearing he realised in 2003 that fulfilling his role as SSG executive chairman was "getting beyond my grasp".

He said he could no longer work 70-80 hours a week and felt he lacked the required mental acuity.

Mr Balnaves had initially sought compensation for a $7.92 million loss but he later changed his case.

He argued the company would have remained the same as pre-takeover, with him running SSG on full remuneration with a 31% shareholding, until he turned 70 in 2014 had he not been injured

"It is notorious that many an individual uses a corporation to conduct a business or carry on a vocation," Justice Byrne said.

"It is, therefore, reasonably foreseeable that personal injury may adversely affect the value of shares in a corporate vehicle the fortunes of which depend to an appreciable extent on a plaintiff's personal exertion.

"So the loss related to the shares is not too remote." 

Topics:  big brother court


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