Foolhardy worker not entitled to PTSD damages
A security guard who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he confronted an armed intruder has lost his claim for damages against three companies.
The man was working after hours in a CCTV control room at a shopping centre when he noticed a person carrying a large duffel bag running towards a roller shutter in the building.
There was a gap above this roller shutter through which intruders could enter.
The security guard, who was working alone, left the control room and walked to the area where he thought the intruder might be. Less than a minute later, the intruder appeared holding an axe. The worker yelled “security”.
The intruder then told the security guard “I am going to kill you” and started chasing him.
The worker ran back to the control room, locked himself inside and called the police, who apprehended the intruder about 10 minutes later.
In Capar v SPG Investments Pty Limited t/a Lidcombe Power Centre & Ors. (2019), the worker claimed the ongoing PTSD and depression he has suffered since the incident occurred because the shopping centre’s owner, its security services provider and his employer had been negligent.
He told the NSW Supreme Court that a month before the incident, two other intruders broke into the building through the same roller shutter gap, which the defending parties knew about.
The worker submitted that the shopping centre’s owner and security services provider should have foreseen that not taking reasonable care to ensure intruders couldn’t enter the premises after hours could result in someone in his position suffering a psychiatric injury.
However, Justice Geoffrey Bellew found that the security guard did not follow the instructions set out in the shopping centre’s site operation manual and had actively put himself in danger.
The operation manual stated that in the event of a break-in, security personnel must not enter the premises and were to call and wait for the police to arrive.
Justice Bellew also found that the security service provider’s work health and safety management plan outlined that when dealing with intruders, staff were to consider their own safety first, not leave their post (i.e. the control room) and call for assistance.
“[The worker] clearly understood that in the event that he saw somebody on the premises who was armed, or who was in possession of something that could be used to cause harm, he was to call the police and do nothing else until they arrived,” he said.
“[The worker] was aware that these instructions were put in place with a view to ensuring his safety, and that he knew that acting contrary to such instructions would have the potential to jeopardise that safety.”
Justice Bellew said the fact that he left the control room to “have a look” at the area where the intruder might be and waited for him was “completely at odds with both the instructions contained in the various manuals, and his understanding of proper safety procedures”.
He also found that the suggestion the worker was not instructed what to do if he became aware of the presence of an intruder was “completely at odds with the evidence”.
“[T]aking into account all of the circumstances, it was not reasonably foreseeable to either [the shopping centre owner] or [the security services provider] that the intruder might threaten [the worker] in the manner in which he did,” Justice Bellew said.
He said the business owners were “entitled to assume” that the worker would follow the instructions he was given to remain in the control room.
The compensation claim was dismissed.
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