Rail infrastructure agency appeals $2.1 million liability claim

Date: Apr 29, 2018

A labourer who was awarded nearly $2.1 million in compensation due to employer negligence has been forced to return to court because of an appeal.

In the original trial, the man successfully argued that he suffered a permanent back injury while performing jackhammer work as part of his job for Rail Corp. We summarised the decision on our blog last year.

Justice Stephen Campbell apportioned blame for the plaintiff’s injuries at 90 per cent and 10 per cent between Rail Corp and Staff Innovations, respectively. The latter company hired out the labourer to Rail Corp as a contractor.

The man was set to receive more than $1.2 million from Rail Corp and $861,000 from Staff Innovations. However, Rail Corp has appealed the decision, claiming Justice Campbell erred in several ways when ruling on the case.

Why did Rail Corp launch an appeal?

The Civil Liability Act 2002 governs many negligence payouts in NSW, including supermarket slips, trips and falls; medical mishaps; and work injury damages claims.

An organisation can be found negligent if they owed the injured party a duty of care and failed to take precautions against foreseeable and not insignificant risks.

The trial judge ruled Rail Corp did not implement a safe system of work and required the plaintiff to perform more than his fair share of time on the jackhammer, despite being in a two-person team.

Rail Corp’s appeal covered several areas. The company argued that Justice Campbell made a mistake when ruling the risk of injury as being not insignificant.

Furthermore, the firm believed the judge should not have accepted medical evidence that suggested the plaintiff had suffered an internal disc disruption when there was opposing testimony. Rail Corp also challenged statements made about the plaintiff’s working conditions.

Was Rail Corp’s appeal successful?

The appellate judges agreed the trial judge had erred in finding the plaintiff had done more than his fair share of jackhammer work. They also believed Justice Campbell had mistakenly inferred the employee was frequently left to his own devices while working.

However, they reaffirmed the original decision that Rail Corp’s system of work was not sufficient to prevent foreseeable risks from harming employees. The appellate judges said these risks were not insignificant and a reasonable employer should have implemented a better work process to protect labourers.

The appeal was therefore dismissed and the plaintiff is expected to receive the compensation he was awarded in the first trial. Such a significant payout will no doubt go a long way to alleviating the financial and non-economic costs of suffering a permanent disability.

Would you like to learn more about negligence claims under civil liability laws? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers. We can assist with a range of personal injury compensation claims where negligence was a key factor in an accident.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts or email your enquiry.