$4m liability claim for murder attempt overturned on appeal

Date: Feb 24, 2017

A public liability claim that resulted in nearly $4 million in damages for the plaintiff has been overturned on appeal after a split decision from the three appellate judges.

The case centred around a murder attempt in 2001 that led to the victim developing post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal tendencies and substance addictions.

The original judgement in favour of the plaintiff was reached in 2015, more than a decade after the incident.

At the time, the man was awarded more than $700,000 in past economic losses, nearly $900,000 in future economic losses, as well as compensation for a range of other medical costs and treatments.

In total, he was set to receive $3.92 million.

How did the liability claim arise?

Telecommunications giant Optus was the defendant in the trial and had been conducting a call-centre training course at one of its sites in Gordon.

On the day of the incident, one of the attendees was found to be wandering around a fourth floor balcony in an agitated, trance-like state while asking to see the plaintiff, who was also an attendee.

Optus team leaders decided to ask the plaintiff to talk to the man in order to calm him down and encourage him to come inside. He agreed, but was nearly thrown off the balcony by the other attendee after approaching him and briefly talking to him.

The plaintiff suffered minor head injuries, as well as severe psychological problems relating to the accident in the years following the incident.

The trial judge believed Optus had owed the man a duty of care while he was on their premises and this was breached when the company's employees asked him to talk to an individual who could be a danger to himself and others.

The appeals process

However, the original decision was overturned on appeal after two out of three appellate judges said Optus did not owe the victim a duty of care.

According to court documents, the judges argued that the company could not reasonably have expected the victim would come to harm by asking him to talk to the distressed man.

They also claimed the foreseeable risk of severe mental harm arising from such an incident was low, and therefore put aside the $4 million claim and ruled in favour of the appellant, Optus.

The complexity of this case and the subsequent appeals shows the importance of having experienced lawyers supporting you during the public liability claims process to ensure you have the best chance of success.

Please contact a member of the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers if you'd like to learn more.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts or email your enquiry.