Public liability claim secures $117,000 payout for plaintiff

Date: Mar 10, 2015

A man who fell over in a council car park has successfully argued a public liability claim in NSW District Court, resulting in a $117,436 payout.

The plaintiff suffered soft tissue damage after he lost his footing after stepping into a defect in the car park’s paving. He said the council was negligent because previous repairs on the surface were poorly completed.

Court documents revealed the man had driven to the site of the accident in order to collect mail from his daughter’s workplace. A lack of lighting meant he was unable to see the patch of ground that harboured the divot in which he stumbled.

Feeling immediate pain in his right shoulder, lower back and neck, the plaintiff drove home and took pain relief tablets. He claimed these were ineffective, requiring him to visit the accident and emergency department of a local hospital.

Medical evidence showed the man continues to have restricted movement in his right shoulder, despite surgeries to fix the problem. The man, who was 62 years old at the time of the accident in 2012, experiences ongoing pain and suffers from depression as a result.

He claimed the incident had resulted in problems with his personal life, specifically regarding a relationship with his partner. The courts heard his disabilities created a strain that eventually led to a separation without reconciliation.

Public liability claim decision

The plaintiff needed to prove several conditions to succeed in his public liability claim. Firstly, the council had to be responsible for the insufficient repairs on the bitumen surface, while also breaching its duty of care.

Furthermore, the defects in the car park paving had to constitute an obvious risk to the public – an accusation the defendant denied. The council also suggested contributory negligence on the plaintiff’s part, meaning he failed to look out for his own safety.

However, the judge threw out all of the defendant’s claims in his decision, stating that the council did breach its duty of care towards the plaintiff and had conducted the substandard repairs that resulted in the accident.

As for contributory negligence, District Court Judge Leonard Levy said: “I accept the uncontradicted evidence of the plaintiff that he had been looking where he was walking at the time of the fall, but that he had not seen the defective bitumen where he fell because the area was poorly lit at the time.”

The compensation covered a range of past and future expenses, including domestic assistance, medical treatments and money for pain and suffering.

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