Category Archives: Duty of Care

Negligence – Duty of care – Safe system of work – Work injuries

Bankstown Foundry Pty Ltd v Braistina [1986] HCA 20; (1986) 160 CLR 301 (13 May 1986).

“Negligence – Master and servant – Duty of care – Safe system of work – Employer’s duty to provide – Scope of duty – Contributory negligence.”

Braistina was a metal trades worker employed by Bankstown Foundry. As part of his duties he drilled holes in cast iron pipes weighing about 60 pounds. He was required to lift about 40 pipes an hour from a pallet onto a drilling machine and then onto another pallet after the drilling.

On a particular shift, Braistina injured his neck after drilling about 115 pipes over a three hour period. Medical evidence showed that the lifting and twisting made the risk of injury foreseeable and not far fetched and fanciful.

A hoist was readily available but not used. The use of the hoist was not impracticable, caused no undue expense or nor any difficulty. Had the hoist been used the risk of injury would have been eliminated.

The court held that in the circumstances, a prudent employer would reasonably require that the hoist be used.

An employer must take reasonable steps to enforce a safe system of work, otherwise they are in breach of their duty of care to the employee and will be found negligent and liable for the injury, loss and damage suffered by the employee.

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Bankstown Foundry Pty Ltd v Braistina [1986] HCA 20 | 13 May 1986

ON 13 MAY 1986, the High Court of Australia delivered Bankstown Foundry Pty Ltd v Braistina [1986] HCA 20; (1986) 160 CLR 301 (13 May 1986).

“Negligence – Master and servant – Duty of care – Safe system of work – Employer’s duty to provide – Scope of duty – Contributory negligence.”

Braistina was a metal trades worker employed by Bankstown Foundry. As part of his duties he drilled holes in cast iron pipes weighing about 60 pounds. He was required to lift about 40 pipes an hour from a pallet onto a drilling machine and then onto another pallet after the drilling.

On a particular shift, Braistina injured his neck after drilling about 115 pipes over a three hour period. Medical evidence showed that the lifting and twisting made the risk of injury foreseeable and not far fetched and fanciful.

A hoist was readily available but not used. The use of the hoist was not impracticable, caused no undue expense or nor any difficulty. Had the hoist been used the risk of injury would have been eliminated.

The court held that in the circumstances, a prudent employer would reasonably require that the hoist be used.

An employer must take reasonable steps to enforce a safe system of work, otherwise they are in breach of their duty of care to the employee and will be found negligent and liable for the injury, loss and damage suffered by the employee.

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Sharp v Stephen Guinery t/as Port Kembla Hotel and Port Kembla RSL Club [2001] NSWSC 336 | 23 April 2001

ON THIS DAY in 2001, Justice Peter McClellan of the Supreme Court of NSW delivered Sharp v Stephen Guinery t/as Port Kembla Hotel and Port Kembla Rsl Club [2001] NSWSC 336 (23 April 2001).

“Judgment on application for verdict by direction

negligence action

whether plaintiff precluded from putting a case in negligence to jury

whether evidence of breach of duty

whether evidence which could establish that the taking of any step would have eliminated risk of plaintiff’s injury

whether evidence before the jury that the risk of injury from tobacco smoke was reasonably foreseeable

whether rule in Browne v Dunn has application

s 23(4), s 42(1) Factories, Shops & Industries Act 1962″

Sharp had sought damages from her employer alleging that her exposure to tobacco smoke as a barmaid resulted in her suffering from laryngeal cancer.  The case was heard before a jury.

The judgment led to jury directions which resulted in a finding that the cancer was caused, or materially contributed to, by the employer’s negligence.

On 2 May 2001, the jury awarded Sharp damages of $466,000 plus costs.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/nsw/NSWSC/2001/336.html

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Tabet v Gett [2010] HCA 12 | 21 April 2010

ON 21 APRIL 2010, the High Court of Australia delivered Tabet v Gett [2010] HCA 12 (21 April 2010).

“NEGLIGENCE – Medical negligence – Damage – Loss of chance – Appellant suffered irreversible brain damage – Respondent’s delay in providing proper treatment breached duty of care owed to appellant – Where not established on balance of probabilities that breach caused any part of brain damage – Where breach at most caused loss of less than 50% chance of better outcome – Whether law of tort recognises or should recognise loss of chance of better outcome as damage giving rise to liability in negligence – Relevance of policy considerations concerning extension of liability in medical negligence cases.

NEGLIGENCE – Medical negligence – Damage – Loss of chance – Trial judge assessed as 40% the lost chance of better outcome – Court of Appeal found evidence supported no more than 15% chance of better outcome – Whether evidence sufficient to establish loss of chance of better outcome – Whether inference could properly be drawn from evidence as to loss of chance.

WORDS AND PHRASES – “balance of probabilities”, “damage”, “gist of the action”, “loss of a chance of a better outcome”, “standard of proof”.”

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2010/12.html

The law of negligence does not allow for damages to be awarded when the breach of duty of care causes less than a 50% chance of a better outcome.

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Hawkins v Clayton [1988] HCA 15 | 8 April 1988

ON 8 APRIL 1988, the High Court of Australia delivered Hawkins v Clayton [1988] HCA 15; (1988) 164 CLR 539 (8 April 1988).

A firm of solicitors was held to be negligent by failing to take reasonable steps to locate an executor (a non-client) following the death of a testatrix (a client whose will they prepared and retained for safe keeping) for some six years after the testatrix’s death.  The solicitors were held to be liable to pay damages for the loss suffered by the executor (who was also a residuary beneficiary) in not being able to manage the estate during the period of delay.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1988/15.html

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Miller v Miller [2011] HCA 9 | 7 April 2011

ON THIS DAY in 2011, the High Court of Australia delivered Miller v Miller [2011] HCA 9 (7 April 2011).

A joint illegal enterprise (eg joyride) negates a duty of care (driver to passenger) thereby creating a defence of illegality on the part of the driver/insurer: see Gala v Preston [1991] HCA 18. However, in Miller v Miller the High Court held that the plaintiff (injured passenger) was owed a duty of care because she withdrew from the enterprise by asking to be let out of the car and there were no reasonable steps available to her to prevent the continuation of the offence.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2011/9.html

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Pyrenees Shire Council v Day [1998] HCA 3 | 23 January 1998

ON 23 January 1998, the High Court of Australia delivered Pyrenees Shire Council v Day [1998] HCA 3; 192 CLR 330; 151 ALR 147; 72 ALJR 152 (23 January 1998).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1998/3.html

The High Court rejected the “doctrine of general reliance” of Sutherland Shire Council v Heyman (1985) 157 CLR 424 (1985) 157 CLR 424.

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Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre Pty Ltd v Anzil [2000] HCA 61 | 23 November 2000

ON 23 NOVEMBER 2000, the High Court of Australia delivered Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre Pty Ltd v Anzil [2000] HCA 61; 205 CLR 254; 176 ALR 411; 75 ALJR 164 (23 November 2000).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2000/61.html

 

The High Court held that the owner/occupier of a shopping centre did not breach its duty of care to an employee of a tenant who was attacked in the unlit shopping centre car park.

Per Gleeson CJ:

“That an occupier of land owes a duty of care to a person lawfully upon the land is not in doubt. It is clear that the appellant owed the first respondent a duty in relation to the physical state and condition of the car park. The point of debate concerns whether the appellant owed a duty of a kind relevant to the harm which befell the first respondent. That was variously described in argument as a question concerning the nature, or scope, or measure of the duty. The nature of the harm suffered was physical injury inflicted by a third party over whose actions the appellant had no control. Thus, any relevant duty must have been a duty related to the security of the first respondent. It must have been a duty, as occupier of land, to take reasonable care to protect people in the position of the first respondent from conduct, including criminal conduct, of third parties.” at [17]

“The most that can be said of the present case is that the risk of harm of the kind suffered by the first respondent was foreseeable in the sense that it was real and not far-fetched. The existence of such a risk is not sufficient to impose upon an occupier of land a duty to take reasonable care to prevent harm, to somebody lawfully upon the land, from the criminal behaviour of a third party who comes onto the land. To impose such a burden upon occupiers of land, in the absence of contract or some special relationship …, would be contrary to principle; a principle which is based upon considerations of practicality and fairness. The principle cannot be negated by listing all the particular facts of the case and applying to the sum of them the question-begging characterisation that they are special. … Most of the facts said to make the case special are, upon analysis, no more than evidence that the risk of harm to the first respondent was foreseeable.” [at 35]

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Rogers v Whitaker [1992] HCA 58 | 19 November 1992

ON 19 NOVEMBER 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered Rogers v Whitaker [1992] HCA 58; (1992) 175 CLR 479 (19 November 1992).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1992/58.html

Dr Rogers had performed surgery on Whitaker’s right eye, which was almost blind. The surgery should have restored her sight, but instead became blind in the left eye when she suffered sympathetic opthalmia. Whilst the risk was remote, Dr Rogers was held to be negligent in failing to warn Whitaker of the risk.

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Jones v Bartlett [2000] HCA 56| 16 November 2000

ON 16 NOVEMBER 2000, the High Court of Australia delivered Jones v Bartlett [2000] HCA 56; 205 CLR 166; 176 ALR 137; 75 ALJR 1 (16 November 2000).

Jones was an adult who received serious injuries when he walked through an interior glass door at the house where he lived with his parents. The house was rented from Bartlett and another by the plaintiff’s parents.

Jones sued Bartlett for damages, alleging negligence, breach of statutory duty and breach of contract. The District Court awarded Jones damages, holding that Bartlett was negligent. The Full Court of the Supreme Court of Western Australia allowed an appeal. Jones then appealed to the High Court, who dismissed his appeal.

The High Court found that the premises were not defective and held that there was no negligence, breach of statutory duty or breach of duty of care on the part of Bartlett.

A landlord’s duty to take reasonable care to avoid foreseeable risk of injury does not require it to make residential premises as safe as reasonable care could make them: per Gaudron J at [87]. The duty owed to the tenants concerns what a reasonable person would do in response to a foreseeable risk of injury.

Per Gleeson CJ:

“There is no ground in principle for imposing upon the respondents an obligation greater than an obligation to take reasonable care to avoid foreseeable risk of injury to their prospective tenants and members of their household. The critical question is as to what is reasonable. The judgment of the Full Court, with which I agree, to the effect that there was no failure to take reasonable care, was a judgment of fact. It cannot be circumvented by an attempt to formulate the legal duty with greater particularity, in a manner which seeks to pre-empt the decision as to reasonableness.” at [57].

“There is no such thing as absolute safety. All residential premises contain hazards to their occupants and to visitors. Most dwelling houses could be made safer, if safety were the only consideration. The fact that a house could be made safer does not mean it is dangerous or defective. Safety standards imposed by legislation or regulation recognise a need to balance safety with other factors, including cost, convenience, aesthetics and practicality.The standards in force at the time of the lease reflect this. They did not require thicker or tougher glass to be put into the door that caused the injury unless, for some reason, the glass had to be replaced. That, it is true, is merely the way the standards were framed, and it does not pre-empt the common law. But it reflects common sense. ” at [23].


 

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