Susan Couch denied a jury in $500k RSA killings damages case
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BUSINESSDESK: Susan Couch, the woman gravely injured in the Panmure RSA attack by William Bell that left three others dead has been denied her lawful request for a jury to hear the case.
In the Auckland High Court, Justice Timothy Brewer ruled that the trial would involve "consideration of difficult questions of law" not suited to a jury.
"The issues are not likely to be issues of fact but issues as to how the law responds to the facts," Justice Brewer says.
"The facts to be established, and the light in which they are to be viewed, might have to be determined by successive rulings on the law, which would unreasonably complicate the task of a jury.
"This is not a case suited to trial by jury."
Ms Couch is suing the attorney-general on behalf of the Department of Corrections, the defendant, for exemplary damages of $500,000.
Her cause of action is that Bell was on parole at the time of his deadly attack on the RSA.
By turning down Ms Couch's July 2011 request, the decision overrides Section 19A of the Judicature Act 1908 which provides that certain civil proceedings may be tried by a jury in cases including where pecuniary damages are sought.
Justice Brewer ruled that wasn't an absolute right and could be overruled by a judge making "a common-sense decision as to whether a civil proceeding is suitable for trial by jury".