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Case Background and Issues at Trial Injuries Damages
Speziali v Nortask Pty Ltd and anor [2023] QSC 166

The plaintiff, whilst carrying out repair works at a bio fuel refinery, suffered significant injuries when he slipped from the top ladder used to access the site of the repair works, falling 8.8 metres onto a concrete slab at ground level.

The plaintiff sued his employer (Nortask) and the refinery for negligence and his employer admitted negligence, however, the issue at trial was whether there should be an apportionment between Nortask and the occupier of the refinery.

The Court found that the apportionment between the employer and the occupier to be 25% to the employer Nortask and 75% to the occupier for failing to identify the risk of injury and rectify the non-compliant gap in the top ladder which caused the plaintiff to fall.

Multiple serious injuries which resulted in a combined 48% whole person impairment
Manca v Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd [2023] QDC 139

41 year-old male who slipped down stairs during the course of his employment as a meat worker.

The plaintiff alleges that the slip was a result of negligence by Teys and in breach of its duties to maintain a safe workplace, in not cleaning the floor adequately and not providing adequate facilities for him to clean his work boots sufficiently before descending the steps, resulting in the floor or his boots (or both) being slippery and the cause of him falling on the steps.

The Court found that “it seems that [the plaintiff], for some reason (probably his own inattention), he misplaced his foot onto the edge (rather than the floor) of a step, causing it to slip out from under him, which in turn led him to fall back and land on the edge of a higher step on his rear left back and rib area. It was an unfortunate accident but was not caused by any defect in, or uncleanliness of, the steps, nor by any material, such as blood, built up in the tread of his boots.”

Injury to ribs and right arm
Trinet Ruth Wilson v Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service [2023] QSC 135

The plaintiff was a registered nurse who was injured when restraining an aggressive dementia patient (with the help of security staff) when the patient suddenly kicked out at the plaintiff causing her to twist suddenly to avoid being kicked.

The plaintiff’s argument was that the hospital was negligent for her injuries by not having procedures in place to better handle aggressive patients.

The Court accepted that the hospital was negligent for not training the plaintiff not to be involved in the restraint of patients (for which security staff were trained and in place to handle) and the failure of the security staff in attendance to call for other security for back up in the circumstances.

Sacroiliac joint
Mason v State of Queensland [2023] QDC 80

The plaintiff was assaulted by a supervisor (punched in the stomach) when working as a corrections officer at the Woodford Correctional Centre and reported it to management, however, he continued to be rostered on with his supervisor.

When the plaintiff requested to be rostered on at a different part of the prison, he was subjected to verbal abuse by colleagues for reporting his supervisor causing a psychological injury.

The plaintiff sued the State of Queensland (Queensland Corrections) as his employer for psychological injuries as a result of his treatment by colleagues in response to reporting the incident.

The Court found the defendant was vicariously liable for the conduct of the supervisor and that management had mishandled the investigation into the incident and did not adequately support the plaintiff after he had reported his supervisor.

Sneddon v Petts [2023] QDC 49

The defendant was the owner of a hobby farm comprising of approximately 160 acres at Rosedale (‘the property’). The plaintiff was assisting him to spray herbicides to treat noxious regrowth on his property in late July 2019 when he fell on a rock and broke his right leg.

The plaintiff sued the owner of the farm for breaching their duty of care to the plaintiff for failing to provide a safe system of work, instructions and training which he alleges would have identified the hazard he tripped on and prevented his injury.

The Court found for the defendant holding that the plaintiff had not proved that the measures it contended the defendant ought to have implemented would have prevented the plaintiff’s injury occurring.

Right spiral fracture of the distal tibia.
Cvilikas v Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service [2023] QSC 36

The plaintiff sustained a shoulder injury in December 2017 while she was employed by the defendant.

Before she sustained the injury, she was helping a colleague prepare a hospital bed for use.

In handling the mattress, the colleague had raised it above his head. The plaintiff reached for the end of the mattress with her left hand to help guide the mattress onto the bed. Without warning, her colleague threw the mattress onto the bed, catching the plaintiff’s left arm and forcing it between the mattress and the metal frame of the bed.

The colleague gave evidence saying he did not need or request assistance from the plaintiff to prepare the bed. He had balanced the mattress at the foot of the bed, lifted the bottom of the mattress to about hip height and then slid it onto the bed. As he was doing so, the plaintiff grabbed at the mattress as it was sliding onto the bed which resulted in her left arm being caught between the mattress and the bed frame.

The court held that a “reasonable person” intending to move a mattress would have taken steps to prevent any person or “part of a person” from being, or being able to be, in the way of the mattress’s movement. If that was impossible to do visually, the reasonable person would have warned other people nearby that the mattress was being moved or asked them to stand away.

In addition, the Court found that the defendant acted negligently by failing to implement a process whereby employees were instructed to warn of the intended motion of mattresses where it was not possible to determine with confidence that no one was, or likely to be, in the way of a moving mattress.

Shoulder injury
Nkamba v Queensland Childcare Service Pty Ltd [2022] QDC 292

On 29 August 2017, the plaintiff was erecting a play area at the defendant's childcare centre. She backed away from a storage shed and stepped down onto an artificial grass area containing a small block. She twisted her ankle and fell, sustaining injuries. She then suffered a secondary psychological disorder.

There was a dispute as to how the block ended up on the shed floor (whether the plaintiff knocked the block onto the shed floor or if the block was on the shed floor the night before).

As regards lighting, the plaintiff's contention was that she was unable to and did not view the block because of a defective internal fluorescent light that did not work at the time, for which the defendant had been notified.

The plaintiff also argued that the building's overhead light was of inadequate quality and did not provide sufficient illumination of the shed.

The court accepted the plaintiff's evidence and thought it was likely that the block was on the ground in the shed the day before. The court ruled that the defendant breached its duty to the plaintiff because its staff hadn't packed the shed properly the day before. They said it wasn't enough that there was a rule about tidying up the shed, since there wasn't any proof that it was clean the day before.

The court concluded that the lighting problems were irrelevant as the foreseeable risk lay in the disorder of the shed. But they accepted it as an additional risk as they increased the risk of the block going undetected.

Ankle and psychological injury
Chapman v Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service [2022] QDC 271

In 2015 the Plaintiff went to a hospital in Hervey Bay. They admitted her for a lumbar puncture. During the procedure, they discovered a perforation in her large intestine. The surgeon and patient didn't see it right away. They did an exploratory procedure the next day and found the perforation. They repaired it as soon as they could.

The Plaintiff discovered that she had undergone an exploratory procedure during which she had been fitted with a colostomy bag.

The plaintiff alleged that she sustained a minor bowel injury, a scarring of her abdomen of 17cm in length, and a mental injury (an adjustment disorder) caused by the surgeon's carelessness. She further alleged that an exacerbation of her CPAP (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea) occurred a few years after the procedure.

Liability was accepted but the quantum of the injuries was contested.

The judge upheld the case-law of the court that awards of future economic loss relate to loss of earning power (or the likelihood of losing power) and that actual income is not as important as it once was.

minor bowel injury, psychological injury and exacerbation of her CPAP
Schafer v Glendale RV Syndication [2022] QDC 263

The plaintiff was a 54 years old, 5'2" tall. She was working as a chef and was asked to stack trays of food in ovens and trolleys. The trays weighed around 5.5 kg. As she was stacking the trays, her left shoulder started hurting. She reported her pain to her boss but kept working for a few days.

According to the defendant, the plaintiff did not complain about problems with loading the oven, so the possibility of injury was not foreseeable. Therefore, the defendant should not be found liable.

The plaintiff argued that she had reported concerns to two superiors prior to sustaining the injury.

The fact that the defendant failed to conduct a risk analysis of the potential risks inherent in the plaintiff's responsibilities played a significant role in the judge's finding of liability for the defendants.

Injury to left shoulder