In recent civil liability case Lee v Dow, a NSW woman was awarded nearly $120,000 as compensation for injuries sustained in an altercation with a fence and a tractor.
The case details
On a rural property in 2013, defendant Robert Dow accidentally backed his tractor up into a fence – plaintiff Honor Lee became entangled in said fence and was dragged into a creek bed. She sustained major injuries to her right hand, as well as to her back, pelvis, teeth and neck, and therefore claimed for past and future medical expenses.
The plaintiff claimed that the defendant breached his duty of care in carelessly operating the tractor (which he had only owned for one month) and causing it to hit the fence, thereby knocking her into the creek. The defendant denied liability, asserting that the injury did not arise from any negligent act on his behalf.
The exact details of the accident are unclear, but the defendant claims that he and his wife both instructed the plaintiff four times not to stand behind or near the tractor at any time and that she indicated she understood – the plaintiff, however, disputes that such information was ever given. The defendant began reversing and, when he did not see Ms Lee behind him, continued driving backwards. When he did try to stop, the tractor did not respond to his slamming on the brake and rolled backwards into the fence, trapping and dragging the plaintiff down.
The judge was not satisfied with either the defendant or his wife's testimonies, calling it very unlikely that the couple would have given the plaintiff such specific instruction four times. The court also found it negligent that Mr Dow decided to reverse the tractor when he could not see Ms Lee – he should have waited to drive until he knew she wasn't behind the machine and the fence.
Ultimately, the judge decided that, like a driver on a road, the defendant owed all persons in the vicinity a duty of care. He breached this when he neglected to locate the plaintiff before reversing, as well as not properly warning her of the foreseeable risks of being near a tractor. Therefore, the defendant was ordered to pay the plaintiff $119,854, as well as her legal costs.
If you've been injured on public or private property and you think that person or entity breached their duty of care, you could have a case. Reach out to Gerard Malouf and Partners on 1800 004 878 to speak with one of our expert personal injury lawyers today.