Work compensation case causes confusion in court

Date: Oct 05, 2018

Between 2015 and 2016, 104,770 serious workers' compensation claims were made in Australia, according to Safe Work Australia. Labourers were the occupation with the highest rates of claims due to copious amounts of heavy lifting and manual work. This was demonstrated in a recent case bought before the District Court of NSW.

Background of the case

On 27 February 2011, the plaintiff sustained injury to her neck, wrist and shoulder region when lifting and moving a bundle of magazines from a raised shelf to a conveyor belt below. The stack of magazines was alleged to weigh around 15 kilograms.

However, approximately two months before the incident, the plaintiff claims to have experienced a severe tingling sensation in her arms. This was a result of using a new form of knife – a hook knife. This was introduced to help cut straps that were holding bundles of magazines together. Each time she used the tool, the plaintiff claims to have experienced the sensation.

On the day of the accident, the plaintiff continued working until the end of her shift as she felt under time pressure and understood the importance of completing the work.

Despite her willingness to return to work, the plaintiff submitted a claim against her employer (a labour hire company) and the premises where the accident occurred, pursuant to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW). She claimed the defendants had not given sufficient training in regards to the use of the hook knife which caused her injuries, and had therefore breached a duty of care.

In November 2017, a trial took place to determine liability in the case. The primary judge sided with the plaintiff on the basis that the defendants had breached a duty of care, and awarded substantial damages to the plaintiff ($544,885 against the first defendant, and $497,585 against the second).

Taking matters into their own hands

Despite the judge's orders, both defendants put forward an appeal in disagreements with the judge's findings on damages and liability. They believed that the judge hadn't carefully considered all matters of evidence, especially medical reports related to the plaintiff's injuries. It was also noted that the evidence gathered was in pure favour of the plaintiff – rather than assessing all fairly and at great length. 

As the hearing drew on, the court noted inconsistences in the plaintiff's extensive evidence, raising doubt about the clarity of her findings. However, because both arguments failed to convince the court, a retrial was ordered to give all parties a chance to fairly fight their corner in the hope of coming to a fair conclusion.

Have you been involved in an accident at work that wasn't your fault? See how the expert team at Gerard Malouf & Partners can help you submit a claim for compensation today.  

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