Teen burns victim Matthew Richards sues for $6.5m
MATTHEW Richards dreamed of being a physiotherapist.
At 15 those aspirations were cruelly ripped from his grasp after he suffered third-degree burns to 45% of his body in what his lawyers claim was an unintentional but avoidable tragedy in the backyard of a Harristown home on August 24, 2013.
Now 18, Mr Richards is seeking past and future damages against the host mother's home and contents insurance provider for more than $6.47 million.
The lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court last night, states he is still required to wear an upper body garment up to two days a week for 23-hours at a time and sleep with an eye patch every night.
He is suing for injury compensation and the loss of future earnings his lawyers estimate to be in excess of $3.5m.
"I wanted to be a physio but the burns mean I have lost the strength in my hands that the job requires so that opportunity is gone," Mr Richards said.
Court documents state Mr Richards, who now works as a bartender, suffers ongoing physical pain and mental anguish and has extensive scarring and physical disfigurement.
"I was in hospital for 36 days, I've had 11 surgeries so far and physio three times a week for two years," he said.
Mr Richards is claiming $290,000 in general damages and $33,362 in past economic loss from earnings.
Ongoing medical costs including medications, treatments, surgeries and travel costs were calculated at in excess of $1.5m.
That includes more than $277,000 for air-conditioning "any premises in which he resides".
"My skin doesn't stretch like it should," Mr Richards said.
"I also don't have sweat glands so I overheat easily and it takes me a while to cool down."
Mr Richards' medical costs and living expenses in the past two years have already cost him and his mother Johanna Way more than $273,000.
"The worst bit was coming home from the hospital," Mr Richards said.
"Being in a familiar place I suddenly realised all of the things I was no longer able to do.
"I couldn't even go near the dog to give him a pat in case he jumped up and scratched me, my skin was so thin and fragile."
Ms Way said she was proud of her son who had stared down adversity with determination.
"When Matthew came home he was covered in dressings and couldn't even stand up on his own," she said.
"It would take us three hours just to shower him.
"I had to cut my nails and wear gloves so I could touch him and not damage his skin.
"He was so determined to get better and get out of the hospital.
"I'm really proud of him."
Mr Richards is represented by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal Jillian Barrett who is also acting for Paris Turkington injured in the same incident.
Ms Turkington earlier this month filed an $11.8m claim against the same home and contents insurance policy.
Ms Barrett said the two claims were separate based on the extent of injuries and particulars to each burns plaintiff.
"Both are undergoing treatment and will continue to for a lengthy period of time," she said.
She said the claim was made against the home and contents insurance policy which "protects not just the belongings but the people invited to the property".