Alex McKinnon could expect a compensation payout even greater than the $10 million being spoken of within two years over the tackle that ended his NRL career last year, a leading litigation lawyer believes.
On the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program on Sunday night, McKinnon indicated for the first time he is considering legal action over the spinal injury he suffered in March last year.
The former St George Illawarra and Newcastle forward has already been issued with the maximum $500,000 compensation payout available to NRL players and around $1.2 million was raised towards his care in last season’s Rise For Alex round.
But with his medical costs mounting, McKinnon appears to have no alternative but to take legal action against the NRL, and it is a predicament rugby league’s governing body appears resigned to.
Due to the high profile nature of McKinnon’s case and recent charges made to expedite such cases through the Supreme Court, the matter could be settled around two years after the instigation of legal proceedings, lawyer Brett Thomas from leading Sydney firm Macedone Legal told AAP.
The firm has dealt with a number of high profile cases including Simon Cowley’s damages claim against fellow swimmer Nick D’Arcy over his assault.
“The NRL is vicariously liable for McKinnon’s injuries in the same way an employer can be liable for what their workers do,” Thomas told AAP on Monday.
“The NRL takes on responsibility for those things that occur on their football field. They take responsibility for what another individual does because they are playing within the NRL competition. It was an illegal tackle so that is where the opportunity for litigation arises.
“McKinnon’s injuries are at the higher end of the scale and that figure ($10 million) is within that range, it could even be more.”
The NRL and McKinnon’s representatives would likely enter arbitration in a bid to reach a settlement figure, but if a payout figure could not be agreed upon the matter could end up before the NSW Supreme Court.
McKinnon said the NRL “have been unreal for me” but it was a matter of meeting the cost of his long-term care.
McKinnon has been employed by the NRL in an ambassadorial role and the representatives from the game’s welfare unit are in regular contact with him. The Rugby League Players Association is also in regular contact with McKinnon.
The NRL itself appears resigned to the likely prospect of legal action.
“That is a matter for Alex to determine,” an NRL spokesman told AAP.
In speaking on 60 Minutes McKinnon said instituting legal proceedings was likely.
“I just need to know how much it is going to cost me, how much money I have and where I was going to get that money from.
“The NRL has been unreal for me and that is one of the things we both, myself and the NRL, are in a very foreign ground really, I don’t know how much it will cost and they don’t know how much they can give me.
It is a stance backed up by seven times premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett, who was coach of the Knights at the time of the tackle.
“He wants to have a family, he wants to have a normal life, as much as he possibly can so it is very hard to be critical of him if he doesn’t feel it is happening for him and he feels it is an opportunity legally for him to bring that to a head,” Bennett said.
“You have to understand, this wasn’t an accident in the sense it was an illegal tackle, that is the difference.”