Labourer set to receive over $1.9m after liability claim

Date: Jan 24, 2017

A labourer has successfully proven that his former employers are liable for a permanent back injury he suffered while on the job.

The plaintiff could be set to receive more than $1.9 million in damages after the judge ruled that working with a jackhammer as part of his employment led to the injury.

The man worked for Staff Innovations, a company that hired him out as a contractor to Rail Corporation New South Wales (Rail Corp) in order to perform maintenance work on the City Circle of the Sydney Metropolitan Railway Line between May and June 2008.

Court documents state that the plaintiff believed both companies were negligent and he named Rail Corp as the first defendant and Staff Innovations as the second defendant.

How the injury occurred

The labourer worked as part of a two-man team that removed timber sleepers and replaced them with newer polymer ones. Older beams were released from the concrete using a jackhammer, before being cut up with a chainsaw and manually removed from the site.

According to the plaintiff, he injured his back on two separate occasions while working for Rail Corp. The first allegedly occurred on May 12 and the second on June 12.

There was little evidence to suggest the June 12 incident happened, however, paperwork and eyewitness accounts corroborated the May 12 injury. The judge therefore based his decision on the May 12 event.

Medical tests suggested that use of the jackhammer had caused a serious injury, with the plaintiff having to undergo a spinal fusion operation in April 2010. Despite the operation, he has suffered a permanent impairment of at least 15 per cent.

Were the companies liable?

While the plaintiff’s evidence was ruled unreliable in some instances, Justice Stephen Campbell believed the labourer’s injury was caused by negligence on the parts of his employers.

The judge said a more comprehensive system of task rotation would have prevented employees from spending too long on the jackhammer at any one time.

He claimed both organisations owed the plaintiff a duty of care, with Rail Corp and Staff Innovations’ share of the responsibility calculated at 90 and 10 per cent respectively.

As such, Rail Corp must pay the plaintiff more than $1.13 million in damages based on lost income and other expenses. Meanwhile, Staff Innovations could be liable for a further $774,379, subject to an ongoing Workers Compensation Act 1987 judgement.

Would you like to pursue a liability claim? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers today.

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