A man who suffered serious injuries after a fall at work has been awarded nearly $1 million due to the significant effect the incident had on his life.
The plaintiff, who worked for a building materials delivery firm, was asked to drop off between three to four tonnes of villaboard sheets to a pavilion and grandstand adjacent to a football field.
There were several conflicting accounts of how the injury occurred, but the judge accepted the plaintiff’s version of events. The man claimed that upon arrival, the site foreman asked him to reverse his truck over a recessed concrete step where the materials could be unloaded. Two planks of wood were placed over the recess to prevent anyone stepping into the gap.
According to the plaintiff, who had visited the pavilion before, a makeshift loading dock was usually used to carry out deliveries. However, he said a glazier’s vehicle was blocking the area on this particular occasion.
While unloading the sheets of villaboard, the man rolled his ankle and subsequently banged his knee when he stepped on the edge of a concrete lip. The man said he experienced immediate pain and asked for ice, although there was none on site.
Following the injury, the man continued the unloading task but told his boss of the accident when he returned to the office. At this point, his ankle was severely swollen and black.
Doctors found a meniscal tear and cruciate ligament damage, with the injury requiring the plaintiff to use a motorised scooter when travelling large distances. He has also lost his previously active lifestyle and put on 45 kilograms of weight.
The court heard the plaintiff suffered physical and psychological damage because of the incident, including a loss of sexual function and depression. He instigated a liability claim against his own company, the primary contractor on the pavilion project and the subcontractor that instructed him during the delivery.
While the judge ruled the plaintiff’s firm and the main contractor were not liable, the subcontractor was forced to pay damages.
“The degree of control exercised by [the company] over the delivery process carried with it an obligation to take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable risks of injury to those engaged in that process,” Justice Peter Johnson said.
He awarded over $968,000 to the plaintiff, although the man’s own contributory negligence was calculated at 15 per cent. The payout included $220,000 for the employee’s pain and suffering resulting from the accident.