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Spinal injury – causation – credit

compensation law casenotes

The plaintiff was employed by a labour hire company and was engaged in stacking and wrapping pallets in a large warehouse operation at the Coles Distribution Centre (Coles).

On 18 August 2018, the plaintiff alleged that he suffered a spinal injury which he claims occurred whilst wrapping a pallet of goods at work.

Decision

The proceedings were dismissed and the plaintiff was to pay the defendant’s costs.

Ratio

There was no issue that the duty of care owed by the defendant was parallel to that owed by an employer.

The defendant denied that the plaintiff was injured at work, that Coles was negligent and that he suffered any damage. There was also an issue with the plaintiff’s credit, which focused on his engineering degree work experience, medical certificates, the impact of the injury on his university studies and his tax affairs.

The plaintiff gave fictitious work experience documents and falsified medical certificates as evidence. He also gave inaccurate and reckless evidence as to his university results and how they were affected by his injury, taking no care with being correct as he tried to support his case. The judge therefore rejected the plaintiff as a witness of truth which impacted significantly on the weight accorded to his incident and its aftermath.

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The judge found negligence in the system of work with respect to the manual wrapping of the pallets without assistance, but in no other area. The judge was not satisfied that this negligence materially contributed to the spinal injury the plaintiff suffered, which occurred at least weeks before 13 August 2018.

The records of the plaintiff’s general practitioner documented that the plaintiff was referred for a computed tomography (CT) scan on 13 August 2018 after reporting back pain, which radiated to his right leg. The judge found that while the plaintiff briefly suffered from the incident on 18 August 2018, it was only a temporary aggravation of a pre-existing injury and was not sufficient to satisfy the threshold for any damages.

The plaintiff did not establish any lost earnings in the period after the incident, he did not satisfy the six-month threshold for gratuitous care and any out-of-pocket expenses did not commence until three days after the incident. The judge was therefore unsatisfied that any expenses were due to what occurred on 18 August 2018, but rather expenses for the injury previously suffered.

This compensation law casenote appears courtesy of Travis Schultz & Partners (TSP), where the author, Libby Thomas, is a lawyer. As part of the firm’s commitment to providing ongoing legal education, TSP practitioners review relevant judgments and prepare case summaries for the legal profession. A free searchable catalogue of compensation law casenotes is available at schultzlaw.com.au/case-summaries (registration required). The full version of the judgments can be found at austlii.edu.au.

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