Category Archives: Personal Injury

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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Sydney, Australia

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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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Nagle v Rottnest Island Authority [1993] HCA 76 | 21 April 1993

ON 21 APRIL 1993, the High Court of Australia delivered Nagle v Rottnest Island Authority [1993] HCA 76; 177 CLR 423; (1993) Aust Torts Reporter 81-211; (1993) 112 ALR 393; (1993) 67 ALJR 426 (21 April 1993).

Nagle became a quadriplegic after diving into a swimming hole and striking his head on a submerged rock.  It was known to Rottnest that visitors engaged in this activity.

Rottnest was liable to pay Nagle damages as it had breached its duty of care to Nagle to warn him of the risk of submerged rocks.

The risk was foreseeable: “Whether small or not, the risk was certainly not far-fetched or fanciful.”

The accident was cased by a failure on the part of Rottnest to erect a sign.

The Civil Liability Acts have since altered the obligations and responsibilities of public authorities and occupiers in such situations.

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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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Harvey & 1 Ors v PD [2004] NSWCA 97 | 30 March 2004

ON THIS DAY IN 2004, the NSW Court of Appeal delivered Harvey & 1 Ors v PD [2004] NSWCA 97. A doctor performing STD tests upon a couple has a duty before the tests are performed to obtain the couple’s consent to share the results.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/nsw/NSWCA/2004/97.html

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Australian Safeway Stores Pty Ltd v Zaluna [1987] HCA 7 | 10 March 1987

NEGLIGENCE. OCCUPIER’S LIABILITY. INJURY. ON THIS DAY IN 1987, the High Court of Australia delivered Australian Safeway Stores Pty Ltd v Zaluzna [1987] HCA 7; (1987) 162 CLR 479 (10 March 1987).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1987/7.html

An occupier of premises owes a duty of care under the ordinary principles of negligence to take reasonable care for the safety of a person who enters the premises, irrespective of whether they are an invitee, trespasser or licensee.

Per Mason, Wilson, Deane and Dawson JJ at 488:

“We think it is wholly consistent with the trend of recent decisions of this Court touching the law of negligence, both in this area of an occupier’s liability towards entrants on his land and in the areas which were the subject of consideration in San Sebastian Pty. Ltd. v. Minister Administering the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 [1986] HCA 68; (1986) 68 ALR 161 and Cook v. Cook [1986] HCA 73; (1986) 61 ALJR 25; 68 ALR 353, to simplify the operation of the law to accord with the statement of Deane J. in Hackshaw, at pp.662-663:

‘… it is not necessary, in an action in
negligence against an occupier, to go through the
procedure of considering whether either one or
other or both of a special duty qua occupier and an
ordinary duty of care was owed. All that is
necessary is to determine whether, in all the
relevant circumstances including the fact of the
defendant’s occupation of premises and the manner
of the plaintiff’s entry upon them, the defendant
owed a duty of care under the ordinary principles
of negligence to the plaintiff. A prerequisite of
any such duty is that there be the necessary degree
of proximity of relationship. The touchstone of
its existence is that there be reasonable
foreseeability of a real risk of injury to the
visitor or to the class of person of which the
visitor is a member. The measure of the discharge
of the duty is what a reasonable man would, in the
circumstances, do by way of response to the
foreseeable risk.'”

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Jones v Dunkel [1959] HCA 8 | 3 March 1959

ON THIS DAY IN 1959, the High Court delivered Jones v Dunkel [1959] HCA 8; (1959) 101 CLR 298 (3 March 1959).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1959/8.html

The unexplained failure of a party to use certain evidence may, in some circumstances, result in an inference that the evidence would not have assisted their case.

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Sydney, Australia

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British American Tobacco Australia Services Limited v Laurie [2011] HCA 2 | 9 February 2011

ON 9 FEBRUARY 2011, the High Court of Australia delivered British American Tobacco Australia Services Limited v Laurie [2011] HCA 2 (9 February 2011).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2011/2.html

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