Judge denies damages claim for $1.2 million

By Jeff Salton on June 13th, 2017

A worker who tripped and injured himself when he left a designated pathway to access the company carpark has had his claim for $1.2 million in damages denied.

District Court of NSW Judge Gibson heard that the worker, a coal haulage truck driver, was walking to his car in heavy rain when he tripped on a gutter hidden by mud and water, causing him leg injuries. He claimed the company was negligent in failing to maintain the gutters to prevent them from filling with water and debris.

He sued HV Operations for around $1.2 million in damages, claiming the injury rendered him totally incapacitated for work.

Judge Gibson heard that the worker had taken the cement pathway for part of the journey to the carpark before detouring left onto an earthen path that led directly to his car. It was on this path that he tripped and injured himself.

The employer argued that the cement walkway provided safe access to carpark for workers and was signposted for workers to use it.

Judge Gibson found the employer had fulfilled its health and safety duties by providing a cement walkway to the parking entry and a sign discouraging workers from leaving it.

Designated walkway

She found the worker voluntarily chose to leave the designated walkway to access a particular spot in the car park and that he was aware of the risks involved.

“I am satisfied that the [worker] suffered the accident he did because, contrary to the system set up for his benefit, he left the covered walkway and traversed wet and muddy ground, slipping and falling on the gutter when he misstepped,” she said.

On finding that the worker’s injuries had healed quickly and he had completely recovered, Judge Gibson said that, had the worker established his case against HV Operations, she would have awarded the worker only $1,500 in past economic loss, plus a small amount in other damages, and then reduced this amount by 85 per cent for his contributory negligence.

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