What happens if I intentionally injure someone in order to protect myself and/or my family?
On the 14th of September 2009, in the case of Corowa v Winner & Anor  QDC 135,
Winner assaulted Isaiah Corowa in order to protect his fiancée and grandmother from being physically and verbally abused. Winner deliberately drove his vehicle at Isaiah Corowa and consequently drove over Corowa’s right foot, which lead to hospitalization and Corowa suffering four separate injuries to his foot, listed as follows:
- A severe crush injury to the right foot resulting in an extensive soft tissue degloving injury requiring extensive plastic surgery and skin grafts.
- A fractured dislocation right mid-foot region was treated surgically with multiple joint arthrodesis or fusion.
- An avulsion fracture of the medium aspect of the right navicular and
- A fracture of the base of the right fifth metatarsal bone
The plaintiff sought compensation from the insurer for the injuries he suffered. The case was taken to court ten years after the incident and unfortunately, Winner had deceased before the hearing.
Differing witness accounts
During the court hearing, six people, including Corowa, gave their recollections of the events from the 14th of September 2009. This was almost ten years before the court hearing proceeded in 2019. As Winner had deceased, his statement from 2009 was used as his recollection. Among these seven accounts, there were several discrepancies and contradicting recollections put forward. Ultimately, the judge decided not to accept the recollection of events put forward by Corowa or his two friends who were with him on the 14th.
Several factors led to this decision, including that:
- Corowa’s statement in 2009 and his statement in court had substantial differences and numerous contradictions.
- Corowa had a significant history of drug use.
- Corowa had a prior criminal history involving numerous convictions for dishonesty and violence.
Recollections given by Winner’s fiancée (Erin) and grandmother (Joy) were accepted as the most accurate recall of events and many of the decisions made were based on their statements as evidence.
While these statements also had some differences, Erin and Joy no longer had an interest in protecting Winner (as he was now deceased) and any differences in the recollections could be linked with the trauma of that day and the substantial lapse of time after the incident occurred.
Furthermore, Erin and Joy’s statements were also consistent with the neighbour who was accepted as an independent witness and viewed as giving honest and reliable evidence.
So, what happened on the 14th of September 2009?
The version of events accepted are summarized as:
- On the 14th of September 2009, Winner reversed out of his driveway as Corowa and two of his friends walked down from a nearby house.
- Winner either almost hit them by accident or came near enough that they felt he was close to hitting them.
- This provoked Corowa and his friends, causing them to abruptly hit the car and abuse Winner, who in turn abused them back.
These events would later lead to the final act of conflict between Corowa and Winner which led to Corowa’s foot injury.
- Later that day, Winner encountered the three men again while driving past some shops. The three men threw an object (likely to be a bottle) at the car and damaged Winner’s vehicle.
- The men later returned to Winner’s home.
- At that stage, Joy was putting the bins out on the footpath with the assistance of Erin.
- She noticed the men arriving from the back of the house with two pulled palings from the fence to be used as weapons.
- Corowa was in possession of a replica pistol which he used to advance on Joy and hit the window of the car she had managed to get inside.
- Winner approached the three in his car which caused Lama and Scott to retreat from the attack, however, Corowa did not.
- At this point, both Erin and Joy were still in danger from Corowa.
Winner was aware that Corowa had a weapon (although he thought it was an axe) and acted to defend his fiancée and his grandmother from the attack by driving his car at Corowa and consequently running over his foot.
Were Winner’s actions justified?
When Winner drove his vehicle at Corowa, this was recognized as assault. The question is whether that assault by Winner was justified, which would determine the outcome of the court hearing.
For Winner’s action to be justified, it must be viewed as a reasonable action that he carried out to protect himself, his fiancée or his grandmother from the attack.
It was found that while Winner was in control of a significant weapon, a motor vehicle, and his actions were likely to cause harm, he was confronting three armed men and it could not be expected for him to leave nor was it practical for him to exit the car and try and fight these men by himself.
The Judge found that Winner’s actions were reasonably necessary to protect his fiancée and his grandmother and accordingly, the defence of self-defence had been established.
Corowa’s claim was dismissed and he was ordered to pay the insurance company’s costs.
If you have any questions regarding personal liability or compensation where there may be self-defence of contributory negligence, please contact our office to speak with a litigation lawyer today. Call us on (07) 3252 0011 and speak with one of our client engagement team today.