Inverell woman receives $300,000 settlement following amputation due to unsafe product design

Published 19 Mar 2015

Our client in this matter is a retired horse enthusiast from Inverell in NSW. She was raised around horses and had always been a keen competitor in dressage. She maintained this passion into the later years of her life and continued to ride horses every day.

Our client purchased a product known as a “trailer tie/panic snap” from the Defendant in this matter. This product was used to automatically release shackles on the horse when it rears up or pulls whilst tethered in a stable or float. For years our client had used an improvised product for a similar function, with which she never encountered any issues. Nevertheless, our client was attracted to the idea of the idea of a quick release functionality of the “trailer tie/panic snap”.

In late 2011 she was using this product to secure a horse in a stable, as intended by its design. The horse reared and she reached up to use the “trailer tie/panic snap”, unfortunately her hand slipped causing it to forcefully to come into contact with the sharp edges of the exposed terminal linkage ends attached to the panic snap causing immediate traumatic amputation of the tips of the index and middle fingers on her left hand. She was rushed to hospital, however her finger tips could not be re-attached. As a result she suffered cosmetic and functional disability and has continuing severe pain as well as reduced manual dexterity.

The Australian Consumer Law requires that consumer products be sold in a condition whereby they are safe for their intended use as persons generally would expect. To further investigate this matter following her tragic amputation, she approached Gerard Malouf and Partners. Leslie Abboud, a Senior Solicitor with over 30 years’ experience, took carriage of the matter. Having dealt with similar matters, Leslie Abboud inspected the product and advised our client that people would generally not expect that it is possible to amputate fingers using a panic snap stable tie in a panic situation, and that the product seemingly contains a “safety defect” within the meaning of the Australian Consumer Law. To confirm his suspicions regarding the unsafe design of the product, Leslie Abboud consulted with a senior Barrister with significant experience in this matter, thus confirming that this product, used in the manner in which was intended by the manufacturer, should not cause such injuries to the consumer, and as it did, it clearly had a significant safety defect.

Mr Abboud and his experienced team then obtained medical reports from expert doctors to appropriately assess the damage to our client. In an attempt to obtain some solace for our client without any delay, negotiations were entered into with the Defendant. The matter progressed to a mediation and settled for $300,000.00. This was a great result for our client and one which she was extremely pleased to receive. Importantly, both the client and GMP were proud to say that we raised awareness with the retailer and wholesaler of a design flaw that compromises safety. This awareness raised will hopefully prevent any further injuries to the public.

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