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Eye doctor could be made to pay $10m for contract breach

EVEN for an elite eye surgeon $10 million is a lot of money.

That is how much a judge has proposed central Queensland ophthalmologist Dr David Kitchen, who worked at Rockhampton and Gladstone clinics and performed day surgery at the Bundaberg hospital, pay in damages for breaching a service contract.

In 2006 the ophthalmology company Vision bought out Dr Kitchen's practice and he agreed to stay with them for at least five years. But just three years later he left to start his own practice and claimed Vision had breached his contract.

But Vision claimed Dr Kitchen, in leaving early, had breached his contract and forced them to close their Gladstone and Rockhampton clinics.

After the Brisbane Supreme Court ruled in Vision's favour last year, Justice Peter Applegarth this week proposed to rule Dr Kitchen should pay $10,845,476 damages for the years of business and interest, for the clinics closing.

While Dr Kitchen claimed Vision was calling for lost income "until the end of time" Justice Applegarth ruled Vision lost more than $10 million at the Rockhampton and Gladstone operations until 2012 - when Dr Kitchen would have been free to start a competing practice.

The Supreme Court ruled while the clinics may have been forced to close after Dr Kitchen's contract expired, if Vision was unable to find a replacement ophthalmologist, Vision would have still saved money from the closure coming abruptly.

The Supreme Court also ruled Vision had lost income from new income streams - including a macular degeneration treatment which was not available until after the Rockhampton clinic closed.

Justice Applegarth has delayed making the formal orders to allow parties to "check the arithmetic" and be heard on costs.

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