Court rules in favour of plaintiff in public liability case

Date:Apr 10, 2019

In the 12 years between 2003 and 2015, slips, trips and falls made up 23 per cent of all serious claims, according to Safe Work Australia. While some of these occur as a result of completely accidental causes, others arise due to negligent behaviour.

In the below example, a popular telecommunications company found itself at the centre of a public liability case in which a man slipped on a piece of infrastructure belonging to the company.

Background of the case

On March 7, 2017, the plaintiff was walking south on the western footpath of Bligh Street in Sydney when he slipped on a metal lid of a telecommunications pit located on the same path. It was raining that morning and the area where the plaintiff was walking was wet.

The plaintiff alleged that the lid of the pit was bowed which is why so much rainwater had collected in it, thus causing him to slip.

As the owner and occupier of the pit, the plaintiff pleaded that the telecommunications company was responsible to ensure the lid was reasonably safe for pedestrian use. 

How did the plaintiff begin proceedings?

During the hearing, the plaintiff submitted evidence from a safety management consultant. The plaintiff and expert attended the scene of the accident on September 4, 2017. In his report, the consultant noted that the lid of the pit was damaged and bowed which explained how so much water became trapped.

How did the defendant respond?

While admitting that ensuring the lid was safe for pedestrian use was its responsibility, the telecommunications company argued that it adhered to a strict inspection system. However, after receiving access to such inspection records, the court learned the same pit lid had been bowed as early as August 2014.

What did the court decide?

After reviewing both sides of the case, the court felt the defendant could and should have observed the bowed condition of the pit lid well before March 2017 when the plaintiff fell. The court found that the telecommunications company did owe a duty of care to pedestrians and was therefore negligent in allowing the pit lid to remain damaged in an area of high pedestrian traffic.

The court ruled in favour of the plaintiff with total damages at $156,026.

If you've been injured as a result of someone's negligent behaviour, you too could be eligible for public liability damages. Get in touch with the personal injury lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners to find out how we can help.

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