A man has pursued a public liability claim against his employer after he suffered injuries following a slip in the company's car park in 2013.
The employee was walking to his vehicle during a period of heavy rainfall when he slipped on the edge of a wet and muddy gutter. According to the plaintiff, he was unable to see the gutter because it was submerged in deep water from the rain.
The man claimed his employer was negligent for not providing a safe system of work and failing to carry out effective risk assessments to prevent staff from hurting themselves.
However, the organisation countered that the plaintiff did not take appropriate care when navigating the car park and neglected to heed a sign that directed employees to use a designated walkway.
The plaintiff was seeking over $1 million in compensation for the accident.
Crucial factors in the case
Public liability claims require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care and that this obligation was breached through negligence, causing injury.
The injuries that the plaintiff suffered in this case were disputed, with the man stating that an injury to his Achilles tendon was severely aggravated during the incident, eventually resulting in major surgery.
However, the defendant's lawyers argued that the plaintiff had done the majority of the damage to his Achilles tendon after slipping off the step of a truck years earlier. They claimed that the subsequent accident involving the gutter only had a minor – if any – effect.
The employer also noted that the plaintiff had tried to take a shortcut on the day in question, thus ignoring a sign that told workers to stick to the walkway.
The man said he did so because going the sign-posted way would have required him to wade through a significant amount of water on the way to his car.
Public liability claim decision
District Court Judge Judith Gibson rejected the public liability claim, stating that the man "voluntarily left" the walkway he was supposed to use.
"Section 5B Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) limits the duty of care to taking precautions that a reasonable person in the position of the defendant would take in order to guard against foreseeable and not insignificant risks of injury," she explained.
"That duty did not extend to providing a means of access to all or even some of the alternate routes to the car park."
This case highlights the complexities of public liability claims, and the importance of seeking sound advice from trusted industry experts when pursuing compensation.
Please contact one of our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.