Sustaining injuries as a result of someone else's negligent behaviour is an all too common occurrence in Australia. Courts around the country are inundated with public liability cases – and the below is no exception.
Background of the case
In November 2011, the plaintiff purchased a ladder from a retailer. On 8 January 2012, he suffered a serious injury to his ankle when he fell to the ground as he was descending the ladder. The defendant, the manufacturer of the ladder, had supplied it to the retailer.
The plaintiff claims the ladder had not been used prior to the day of the accident and his accident occurred as a result of a safety defect on the ladder.
Following the incident, the plaintiff bought his case to court. However, the primary judge dismissed his case on the grounds that he had not proven that the fall was a result of a defect in the ladder.
The plaintiff put forward an appeal claiming the primary judge had failed to correctly consider evidence.
A secondary opinion
During secondary proceedings, the court relied on the findings of a joint report constructed by a consulting engineer and a mechanical and structural engineer. Both men were responsible for carrying out an investigation on the ladder to determine if it functioned correctly and whether there were any defects that may have contributed to the collapse of the ladder.
Both consultants reported that the ladder was in dangerous condition due to the locking mechanism having the ability to slip outward, causing the upper section to slide back to folded position. They believed such defects contributed to the collapse of the ladder.
However, as per the primary judge's previous findings, the court also shared reservations on the plaintiff's evidence. While he claims to have checked the sliding mechanism fully before use, the court noted that had he looked at the mechanism when ascending the ladder, he would noticed that it was not fully locked at all times. Furthermore, it was evident the plaintiff had read the warning, but he did not read it fully. As a result, the aforementioned factors led the court to note that the plaintiff was responsible for contributory negligence.
Under Section 138 of the Australian Consumer Law, a manufacturer of goods is liable to compensate an individual if the goods have a safety defect which cause the consumer to suffer injuries. Therefore, the defendant was ordered to pay the plaintiff a sum of $105,044.95. However, after confirming there was a degree of contributory negligence from the plaintiff, the sum was reduced by 30 per cent, leaving the total award for damages at $73,531.47.
If you're struggling with your own public liability claim, let the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners help. Get in touch with us today to see how we can assist you with your case for compensation.