Woman defends occupier’s liability appeal for juicer accident

Date: Jun 22, 2017

A woman whose left hand was seriously injured in a juicing machine will receive compensation after successfully fighting off an appeal from the retailer deemed liable.

The Vietnamese national was in Australia on a student visa when she started working part-time as a shop assistant at a coffee and desserts store. Her schedule consisted of one to two hours of work every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

But while the accident occurred at the shop, the woman wasn't working on the day. She went to the shop to visit her friend, who asked her to help with cleaning the floor and the juicing machine.

While tidying, the plaintiff slipped on a wet floor and her left hand entered a gap in the juicing machine that's used to insert sugarcane and other ingredients for crushing.

As a result, she suffered extensive injuries to her hand, including the amputation of her ring finger, which led to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a suicide attempt.

Original occupier's liability claim

The woman was successful in receiving compensation after pursuing common law damages against her employer as occupiers of the property at which the accident occurred.

She won nearly $500,000 in compensation after the judge ruled the organisation owed her a duty of care and this had been breached due to negligence in safeguarding the juicing machine against obvious injury risks.

However, the employer launched an appeal, claiming the plaintiff's common law damages claim should have been restricted due to Chapter 7 Part 6 of the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998.

If the employer could successfully argue that the accident either occurred "in the course of" the plaintiff's employment or was an injury "arising out of" her employment, the decision could be overturned.

Appellate judges make a decision

Despite the appeal, the appellate judges ruled that the woman's injuries did not occur during the course of her employment nor did they arise out of it.

While the respondent had volunteered to help her friend with duties that she would normally be expected to perform as part of her job, she did so on her day off and did not receive or expect to receive reimbursement.

The woman will have to repay money she received in workers' compensation as a result of the accident, but she should still receive the $495,399 originally awarded for her public liability claim.

Have you been injured in a public place or private property? Please contact a member of our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

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