Eye surgeon David Kitchen.
Eye surgeon David Kitchen.

CQ Eye surgeon will have to pay millions over lawsuit

A CENTRAL Queensland ophthalmologist may have to pay millions of dollars in damages to cover the legal costs of his former employer who sued him.

A Supreme Court judge has ordered Dr David Kitchen to pay 95% of the legal bill of his former employer, Vision Eye Institute and Icon Laser, who sued him for breaching his employment contract while he worked in Rockhampton and Gladstone.

The companies' legal bill came to about $10.8 million.

The total amount Dr Kitchen will have to pay will be assessed by an independent legal expert.

Vision Eye Institute and Icon Laser took Dr Kitchen to court because he allegedly agreed to work for the company for five years after it bought his Central Queensland Eye Centre practices.

The centre had consulting clinics in North Mackay, Gladstone and Rockhampton. Dr Kitchen also performed day surgeries at Bundaberg.

He also counter-sued the company over an alleged contract breach relating to staff remuneration.

In his judgment, Supreme Court judge Peter Applegarth said Icon and Vision Eye offered to settle the matter in 2011, if Dr Kitchen paid $2 million and each party would pay their own costs.

But this was refused.

Justice Applegarth said Dr Kitchen would have been free to practise in Rockhampton and Gladstone if the matter was settled.

"…The defendants would not have been exposed to the plaintiffs' very substantial claims for damages which resulted in a judgment of more than $10 million," Justice Applegarth also said.

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