Public liability claim results in $258,000 payout for injured worker

Date: Mar 01, 2017

A woman will receive more than $258,000 in compensation following a workplace accident that left her with a significant injury to her lower back.

The plaintiff, who was working for a labour hire company, was working on a site where she was involved in the repair and maintenance of roof chocks – a type of heavy mining equipment.

At the time of the accident, she was at ground level next to a roof chock while a colleague performed repair work.

Her primary role was to pass him tools to help with maintenance, while he stood on a stool, which was on top of a steel section of the roof chock.

How did the accident occur?

According to court documents, solsenic or hydraulic fluid had contaminated the area, making it slippery. The plaintiff's colleague lost his handhold and then fell backwards when the stool skidded on the roof chock surface.

He landed on top of the plaintiff, who broke his fall, and she suffered serious injuries as a result. The woman therefore pursued a public liability claim against the site owner.

New South Wales District Court had to decide whether the defendant owed her a duty of care and whether this obligation was breached when the accident occurred.

The plaintiff argued that the defendant didn't implement a safe system of work and failed to provide her colleague with an appropriate platform to carry out his duties. She believed the spillage should have been cleared up beforehand and that she wasn't warned of possible dangers.

The judge's decision

While the defendant didn't contest how the accident happened, the company claimed the plaintiff had lied about her work experience. The organisation also thought contributory negligence was a factor.

However, Judge Leonard Levy rejected the contributory negligence allegations after the defendant essentially abandoned this course of action and provided no evidence to support it.

Judge Levy acknowledged that the plaintiff lied about her previous work experience, but gave her credit for readily admitting to the accusation under cross-examination.

She had exaggerated her experience in order to get work, and the judge felt this was no reason to derail her public liability claim.

As such, he awarded her $322,738, which after applying section 151Z of the Workers Compensation Act was reduced to $258,190.

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