Business appeals $1.3 million work injury damages decision

Date: Mar 28, 2018

A defendant in a work injury damages case has launched an appeal to avoid liability for an accident that caused an employee’s partial paraplegia.

The original trial saw the plaintiff receive $1.3 million in compensation from the appellant, as well as a further $740,000 from another firm deemed responsible for the incident.

During the appeal, the appellant not only claimed it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care, but also argued that the damages awarded to the employee were poorly calculated. But was the organisation’s appeal successful?

Why did the man receive compensation?

The injured party was a backpacker performing casual work stacking timber from a shipping crate.

A pile of timber collapsed on him while he was undertaking his duties, leading to permanent disabilities. The two defendants in the original trial were the company with which the man was directly employed and the appellant.

At trial, the plaintiff’s lawyers showed the appellant was the firm overseeing the man’s employer. It exercised significant executive, administrative and financial control over the employer, including its health and safety processes. As such, the trial judge apportioned blame at 60 per cent to the appellant and 40 per cent to the employer, resulting in the $1.3 million and $740,000 awards of damages, respectively.

Did the appellant owe the man a duty of care?

The three appellate judges re-examined the evidence and affirmed the original decision.

They stated that while the two defendants were technically separate corporate entities, the businesses were essentially a single, integrated organisation.

“There was no reason to doubt the trial judge’s conclusion that [the appellant] breached its duty by failing to take precautions with respect to the stacking of the beams; by failing to ensure a proper inspection was carried out by an experienced person and by failing to instruct employees as to safe stacking practices,” the judges stated.

Appellate judges reduce damages

Despite dismissing the duty of care appeal, the judges reduced the awarded damages by approximately $200,000.

They ruled the trial judge had erred in providing compensation for lost superannuation because the plaintiff was a British resident who would not be entitled to the same pension benefits in the UK. Calculations regarding workers compensation were also found to be incorrect.

Nevertheless, the man will still receive work injury damages of $1.2 million from the appellant and $740,000 from his former employer.

Have you been injured in the workplace due to an employer’s negligence? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for more information.

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