The NSW Court of Appeal has awarded a man $136,149 following a public liability claim he made after injuring himself falling from a railing.
According to court documents, the plaintiff was sitting on a wooden railing when it collapsed from under him. He fell onto a second railing before rolling down an embankment.
The incident caused serious ongoing injuries in his lower back, with the pain sometimes radiating into his legs. The man, a plumber, argued the injury has affected his ability to do his job and prevents him from enjoying several sports activities.
A local council that was responsible for maintaining the railing eventually admitted liability for the accident, with the judge originally awarding the man $278,392 in damages.
The money included $127,000 for non-economic losses, which was primarily due to the plaintiff’s inability to ski, surf and fish as easily as before the accident. Future economic losses were judged to be worth $100,000, while $10,000 was allocated for care costs.
However, the council chose to appeal the decision, arguing that the judge had erred when calculating damages. The organisation questioned the extent of the non-economic and future economic losses, and asked the appellate judges to disregard care expenses.
Public liability appeal
A number of issues were raised with the judge’s damages decision. Firstly, the council suggested there were inconsistencies in the man’s evidence about which activities he was struggling to participate in.
For example, while the plumber claimed to have not gone skiing recently, it was revealed he had hit the slopes just four months after his accident. Also, while the man was unable to surf as expertly as before, he was still able to do so using slightly different equipment.
The appellate judges agreed the compensation for non-economic losses was steep and lowered the amount from $127,000 to just over $20,000. Future salary losses were also reduced from $100,000 to $75,000, as the judges felt the man was still able to perform many of his workplace duties.
Care costs were removed entirely due to the original judge providing no solid evidence of why these were necessary. The plaintiff had suggested he may need help with household tasks in the future, but there was no medical support for this statement.
Overall, the council’s appeal had some success, bringing the man’s compensation down from $278,392 to $136,149. However, he still walked away with money to cover a range of expenses that his injury had incurred.