Public Liability Case Studies

TRUCK DRIVER INJURES ANKLE STEPPING INTO POTHOLE

Our client, MC, was a self-employed long distance truck driver. MC was making a late night delivery to the Defendant’s premises and had to step out of his cab to weigh his load. The lighting over the weighbridge was not working, making the area pitch black. As MC stepped down from his cab, his ankle rolled in a pothole on the dirt road, causing him a serious ankle injury.

As a result of the ankle injury, MC was unable to work as a truck driver for several weeks. After he returned to work he never regained the same level of duties, as using the clutch on his 18 gear truck aggravated his ankle pain.

A claim was brought against the company responsible for the premises, alleging unsafe lighting, an unsafe road surface, and an unsafe method of operations. Liability was denied but we obtained an expert report from a health and safety expert who confirmed that MC’s accident could have been prevented by safer practices. We also obtained a witness statement from another truck driver who confirmed poor practices at the Defendant’s site. Our witness also confirmed better methods at other sites, including the use of UHF radios which avoided the need for drivers to exit their cabs.

The Court ordered that the parties attend a settlement conference before the matter went to Hearing. Although liability had been strenuously denied, we secured a significant lump sum of compensation for MC at the settlement conference. MC subsequently had the financial security to pay for any future surgery on a private basis, and the assurance that he had money to fall back on if he needed time off work in the future.


STUDENT BREAKS NECK ON JUMPING CASTLE

 Our client, a uni student, did a backward somersault on an adult jumping castle and broke his neck.
After months of intensive rehabilitation he made a remarkable neurological recovery, being able to walk and to work.
We brought the claim for him against the supplier of the jumping castle for its failure to give users proper instructions and supervision, plus the university which had hired the jumping castle.
Despite the obvious difficulties our client faced in establishing liability by one or both of the defendants the claim was settled for a very significant sum with little or no compromise by our client on liability.

RAINWATER IN SHOPPING CENTRE INJURES ELDERLY CLIENT

 Our elderly client visited his local shopping centre on a rainy day.  After entering the shopping centre, he used the travelator to get to the lower floor, when he suddenly slipped and fell.  It transpired that the surface of the travelator was wet from rainwater, seemingly brought in by another customer’s shoes or umbrella.
Our client sustained multiple injuries including cuts and scarring to his hands and head, and orthopaedic injuries to his right arm, right leg and back.  Given our client’s age, his injuries had a profound effect on his independence.  He was also badly shaken and lost his confidence in going out alone after the accident.
Our expert public liability compensation lawyers put both the shopping centre and the mall’s cleaning company on notice of our client’s compensation claim.  Liability was strongly denied by both defendants, and the shopping centre instructed lawyers to deal with the shopping centre accident on their behalf.
Undeterred, our compensation specialists obtained evidence establishing that both the shopping centre and their cleaners had been negligent.  Our personal injury solicitors demonstrated that the cleaners had not deployed suitable wet weather measures in the rainy conditions, and that the shopping centre had not taken the requisite level of care when subcontracting cleaning services to the cleaning company.
The evidence that we obtained convinced both defendants of the strengths of our client’s claim.  We were subsequently able to secure our client a compensation settlement without the need to commence court proceedings.

Our client’s claim shows not only the intricacies of shopping centre accident claims, and also the excellent results that can be achieved through perseverance by our specialist public liability lawyers.


CHILD SUFFERS BRAIN INJURY IN FALL FROM WINDOW
We acted for a young boy who suffered an extremely bad brain injury when he fell out of a 3rd storey bedroom window of his Department of Housing apartment onto the concrete driveway below.
The boy, who was only 3 when the accident happened, was left with a profound brain impairment which limits his ability to walk and talk and causes him difficulty with basic everyday tasks. He will require various forms of care for the rest of his life.
We sued the Department of Housing and its contractor for failing to properly secure and maintain the window. The Department denied liability.
The claim was settled for a significant sum at a settlement conference prior to being heard at court.

Despite the tragic circumstances, it was of great comfort to the little boy’s family to know that from the settlement he would be able to pay for his treatment and medical expenses for the rest of his life.


PEDESTRIAN TRIPS

Our client was walking through the Pitt Street Mall when she tripped on a covering on a cable, left insitu by workers employed by the Sydney City Council.

Our client suffered a nasty orthopaedic injury from which she made a slow recovery.

Whilst liability was denied by the Sydney City Council the claim was settled for a significant sum at a settlement conference without court proceedings having to be commenced.


PATRON KNOCKED OUT

On the last working day in 2012 our client went to a hotel in northern NSW, where he lived, to have a few beers to unwind after a very busy year.

The hotel, when he arrived, was staging a “jelly wrestling” contest which involved a number of hotel patrons wrestling bikini-clad girls in a pit filled with jelly. Whilst our client did not participate in the jelly wrestling he suffered a severe injury when he attempted to cross the hotel floor and kick a beach ball. He slipped backwards on the wet and slippery floor and hit his head, which knocked him unconscious.

The doctors at the local hospital assumed that the claimant was simply intoxicated, however when our client was taken to a larger hospital the next day, after he suffered from severe headaches, scans revealed that he had suffered a brain haemorrhage, because of the fall. He was immediately admitted to hospital for appropriate treatment.

Our client was unable to return to his normal work and suffered from severe mental fatigue which restricted him to part-time work. The injury also caused some adverse personality changes which was distressing not only for him but also members of his family.

We were able to obtain CCTV footage of the accident which clearly showed how the accident occurred and the fact that our client’s head hit the floor very hard.

The insurer for the hotel denied liability and we commenced court proceedings in the Supreme Court in Sydney. The claim was listed for hearing in early December but was settled on a compromise basis at a settlement conference with the lawyers for the insurer. Our client accepted some discount for the fact that at the time of the accident he may well have been intoxicated, although he has no memory of the day or evening.


CHAIR COLLAPSES

Our client, who is a very heavy man and who already had suffered a previous back injury had the misfortune of re-injuring his lower back when the plastic chair which was provided to him at a function in Wollongong collapsed underneath him.

Our client sued the proprietor of the place where the accident occurred on the basis that the chair which was provided to him was unsafe and inappropriate.

After a protracted claim, which involved the commencement of proceedings in the Supreme Court the claim was finally settled after many attempts to engage the insurer and its lawyers in bona fide discussions.


FALL IN CLUB

Our client tripped on a microphone cord at a golf club and landed heavily on his shoulder resulting in a significant fracture to his shoulder joint. Our client underwent surgery and made a reasonable recovery. For many months he was unable to attend to the usual work he did on his rural property, and required assistance.

Unfortunately our client was involved in a subsequent accident where he injured his other shoulder.

The claim against the club was initially hard fought and the insurer, through its lawyers, aborted several settlement conferences.

However finally, as a hearing date in the District Court approached, the insurer started negotiating on a bona fide basis and the claim was settled for a significant sum.


SHOPPING TRIP ENDS IN DISASTER

Gwen, a 92 year old lady, tripped and fell on a hole in the tiles of a shopping mall sustaining injury. The defendant denied liability and the matter proceeded to a hearing in the District Court of NSW for five days. The client was successful and received a substantial sum for damages.


SCHOOL ACCIDENT ENDS WITH SURGERY

We acted for Isabella, a primary school student, who suffered injury at her school. Isabella and some other children came across a long metal bar in the playground and attempted to move it. In doing so Isabella suffered injury to her hand and she had to undergo surgery in hospital. Isabella’s parents instructed us and we brought a successful claim on her behalf. A lump sum settlement will be invested on Isabella’s behalf until she turns 18 years of age.


SKATE JUMP GOES WRONG

Jason was rendered a quadriplegic when using a skate jump that went into a pit. The participants went up and off the jump on skateboards or, in Jason’s case, bicycles and landed in a pit that was filled with foam and old mattresses. The jump had been constructed by a Church organisation for a local youth event. The organiser had later suggested Jason and his kids should come and use it. However the Church had not filled the pit with adequate material and had lined the base of the pit with wooden pallets. We alleged that Jason went through the material in the pit and hit the wooden pallets beneath, however there was an argument as to whether he did in fact hit the bottom and also as to whether this was an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity. It was not a straight forward case however the case was settled for a substantial amount.


NASTY SLIP

Jennifer was shopping one Saturday morning when she slipped on a big spill on the floor. Another customer had knocked over a bottle and then had informed a staff member at a nearby register. The staff member finished serving a customer and then called for the cleaners, but in the meantime Jennifer walked past and fell. She suffered whiplash injury to her neck and suffered dizziness and nausea. We resolved the claim by negotiation at a meeting with the lawyer for the retailer.


FENCE COLLAPSES ON WOMAN

We acted for Vanessa who was injured when a heavy fence around a building site fell on her. Vanessa was pregnant and actually on her way to ante-natal classes at the hospital when the injury occurred. As a result of the incident Vanessa suffered problems with her hips, wrist and lower back. We dealt with the builder’s insurance company and secured an out of court settlement for Vanessa.


GROCERY SHOPPING ENDS WITH INJURIES

Bryce was injured whilst attending to his grocery shopping when he slipped on a puddle of water sustaining quite minor injuries to his knee, hip and back injury. Bryce’s case settled just 3 weeks after commencing proceedings in the District Court against the supermarket.


CLIENT HIT BY FLYING GLASS

Sharon was a patron at an inner city hotel when she had a glass thrown at her by an intoxicated and aggressive patron. The Patron was intoxicated prior to entering the establishment, and in the face of security at the front door being aware of his heavily intoxicated state and aggressive nature, they allowed him into the pub. He continued to be loud and aggressive, and despite this he was not escorted off the premises. For no apparent reason he then threw a glass at Sharon. As a result, she sustained lacerations to her face. Fortunately she made a very good recovery and was left with minor and almost undetectable scarring. The claim was made against the licensee of the inner city pub and Sharon was successful in achieving a very good settlement. She was delighted with the result.


BALCONY COLLAPSES

We acted for Suzana, a young mother of two children, who sustained catastrophic spinal injuries after falling from a balcony when attending an evening birthday party at her friend’s rented unit. Proceedings were commenced against the owner of the property and the real estate agent contracted to manage the property on the owner’s behalf. We presented evidence to show that the balcony was in a state of disrepair, which was known, or ought to have been known by the owner of the premises and the real estate agent. Our expert evidence demonstrated that the fall occurred when the top balcony railing was pulled from the wall when Suzana placed her hand on the railing. Inspection of the timber balcony railing revealed several rusty nails with which the railing was affixed to the wall. At a court ordered mediation, we were able to successfully negotiate a superb settlement.


DISCARDED TROLLEY

Rebecca tripped and fell on an unattended trolley at her local Bunnings store. She sustained an injury to her right shoulder and an aggravation of a previous back injury. She was successful in negotiating a settlement of her claim.


SUICIDE JUMPER LANDS ON CLIENT

45 year old woman suffered serious personal injuries at Westfield Shopping Complex at Chatswood when a lady, attempting to commit suicide, threw herself over a 6th floor balcony and landed on our client. As a consequence our client suffered serious personal injuries, including brain damage. A claim was successfully made against a government department for having allowed the lady who tried to commit suicide to walk out of a mental institution, despite the fact that she was on suicide watch.


DANCING DISASTER

Jason was enjoying time with his friends at a Sydney nightclub when he tripped over a glass on the dance floor rupturing his Achilles tendon. The nightclub had no adequate system of clearing glasses. The nightclub defended the proceedings but eventually the matter was settled before hearing. Jason will now use his settlement monies for a deposit on a property with his fiancée.


TRIP CASE SETTLES OUT OF COURT

Mrs Renshaw, an elderly woman, suffered injury when she was walking along a footpath with her walking frame in front of her. She tripped and fell on a broken pit that hadn’t been repaired despite complaints to the relevant government bodies to do so. Mrs Renshaw suffering severe injuries which greatly reduced her quality of life. Mrs Renshaw’s case was settled before court proceedings had to be commenced and she’ll now be able to have the treatment and home support she needs.


YOUNG MAN SUFFERS ASSAULT

Samuel was brutally assaulted at a Sydney Hotel by other patrons while bouncers stood and watched. Samuel continues to suffer severe psychological injuries following the assault. Samuel’s case was successfully settled out of court against the Hotel and the security company


PATIENT KILLED IN HOSPITAL

Our client in this claim was aged ten when his father was tragically killed whilst hospitalised in a psychiatric clinic for a depressive disorder. The Claimant’s father was attacked by another patient, with whom he was obliged to share a room. This patient was known to be violent, and the Claimant’s father died as a result of the injuries he suffered in the attack. Our client suffered psychological shock as a result of the death of his father, and was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood as part of a pathological grief reaction. To add to the complexity of the claim our client went on to develop Crohn’s disease shortly after the death of his father. Although it is not definitively possible to link the onset of Crohn’s disease with psychological shock, both the Claimant and his mother were of the opinion that the two were connected and medical evidence was adduced that this was likely. In any event it could be claimed that the Claimant’s psychological condition left him ill equipped to cope with the onset of the Crohn’s disease We were able to successfully settle the claim during negotiations with the Insurance company covering the local health service responsible for the psychiatric clinic where the claimant’s father was housed at the time of the attack on his person. Compensation was agreed for both general damages and economic loss and care. The Claimant was of age at the time of the settlement.


CHRISTMAS RUINED

Josie was doing her Christmas shopping with her teenage son in a large shopping centre in Sydney on a very wet and rainy day, when she slipped on a pool of water on the floor and suffered injury to her knee. She suffered ongoing problems with her knee that made it difficult for her to do all her normal household and gardening chores. Josie lives in a large house on acreage and normally did all the household and gardening chores around the house. We brought a claim on Josie’s behalf against the shopping centre management company and the cleaners of the centre. The claim was settled successfully without having to go to court.


DENTAL DISASTER

‘Abbey was visiting a motel in Broken Hill when she tripped over a bollard in the dark, landing on her face and breaking a number of teeth.She had extensive dental treatment. A claim was made against the motel based on the negligent placement of the bollard and the lack of lighting. The motel’s insurer was prepared to talk and the claim was settled, without litigation, for the dental expenses plus pain and suffering and costs. It was a very sensible and reasonable outcome


MAN FALLS THROUGH SHED ROOF

In August 2008 Dave suffered paraplegia when he fell through the roof of a shed on a property being rented by his girlfriend. He had climbed onto the roof to clear the gutters, thus allowing the flow of rain water to the water tank located next to the shed. Unknown to him the wooden roof was rotten and couldn’t take his weight. Our client brought a claim for damages based on negligence against the landlord and real estate agent , even though our client was not a party to the rental agreement. Proceedings were commenced in the Supreme Court and were strongly contested. The case went to a Mediation before the trial date where it settled for a significant sum of money.


DOG ATTACK

Warwick was walking his two small dogs along a quiet suburban street in Sydney when two rottweilers escaped from a neighbouring property and attacked his dogs. Warwick suffered injury to his shoulder, neck and back as he tried to fight off the Rotweillers and protect his dogs.

The rottweilers’ owner had left the gate of his rented premises open, allowing the dogs to escape. Warwick needed ongoing medical treatment and was unable to work as a result of his injuries. We were able to successfully recover compensation for Warwick from the owner of the rottweilers.


STUDENT HIT BY GOLF BALL

We acted for a 22 year old man who was injured at school when he was 13. He suffered a brain injury when he was hit in the head by a golf ball during the lunch break. A fellow pupil threw the golf ball. Just before the golf ball was thrown, a supervising teacher had seen the group of boys with the golf ball and asked them to put it away, rather than confiscating it. Our client brought a claim for compensation against the boy who threw the ball, under the boy’s home and contents insurance policy and against the Department of Education in relation to the conduct of the supervising teacher. Both defendants denied liability. There was a risk that the Court would not find negligence. In spite of the brain injury our client managed to complete his schooling and to complete a Bachelor of Commerce and is now doing a Master of Finance. The claim was successfully settled out of court


SCHOOL BOY SUFFERS BURNS

We acted for a 14-year-old schoolboy for the 3rd degree burns he received to more than 75% of his body in a school accident. Our client and other students were at the school playing field for afterschool football training when the accident occurred. A teacher from the school was the coach. The teacher marked the field lines by pouring accelerant on the grass from a tin in which he had drilled a small hole in the lid and then lighting the grass with a match. Although there were a number of witnesses – it was difficult to determine exactly how our client got injured as witnesses provided different accounts of the accident. Some witnesses stated our client picked up the tin of accelerant and was pouring accelerant on the flames when the tin exploded. Others, including our client, said the explosion happened when our client kicked the tin away from approaching flames. We interviewed each of the witnesses.

The school accepted the actions of its teacher were negligent but alleged our client was also partially responsibility for the accident. We engaged an adolescent psychologist to give an opinion on the unpredictability of teenage behaviour as support that our client did not contribute to his own injuries.

A large out of court settlement was reached over 2 days of mediation. Prior to the settlement we obtained, via the Court, interim payments to allow our client to purchase a home suitable to his needs while waiting for his case to be finalised. Claims were also successfully brought for the nervous shock suffered by each of our client’s immediate family members.


SAILOR FALLS DOWN HATCH

We acted for a crewmember of an ocean trawler who sustained a traumatic brain injury when he fell down an open hatch on a vessel. Our client struck his head on the edge of the hatch and fell some three to four metres down to the galley, sustaining severe traumatic brain injury. The difficulty with this case was that there were no witnesses to the accident. Despite this, this case was successfully settled out of Court.


SUBSIDENCE CAUSES CRASH

We acted for a self-employed truck driver whose truck rolled over at tip causing him to suffer multiple severe physical injuries. Expert evidence alleged that the roll-over occurred either due to subsidence in the area he was tipping or that the area was sloped. It was alleged that the tip owed our client a duty of care and ought to have roped off any unsafe area. Liability was hard fought by the tip but the matter resolved successfully out of court.


PENSIONER ATTACKED BY DOG

We represented Helen, a pensioner aged 68, who was viciously attacked by a large dog. Helen sustained a displaced spiral fracture of her left femur, which required surgery. Helen’s leg injury was very debilitating and restricted her mobility. Helen, who lived on her own, had to rely on family and friends to assist her with basic daily activities, such as household duties and personal care tasks. Our investigations revealed that the owners of the dog had a policy of insurance that provided coverage for Helen’s accident. After identifying the public liability insurer, Helen, through us, managed to successfully pursue a claim for compensation. Helen’s claim settled out of Court for an amount that compensated her for her pain and suffering, as well as her need for care and treatment.


FALLING VENT DOES DAMAGE

We acted for an invited entrant onto a block of residential units who was injured when a brick vent dislodged and fell from the exterior of the building onto his head. The building was in very poor condition, even to the casual observer. Proceedings were brought against the owners of the strata plan and were successfully settled at out of court.


SLIP IN THE WET

We acted for a lady who was injured when she tripped in the rain on steps leading out of a popular hotel. The hotel had placed non-slip grip step on parts of the step but the grip was coming away in a number of places. The stairs, without the strips, were extremely slippery and unsafe. Our client suffered injuries that prevented her from running her B&B business and enjoying activities she loved prior to her injury, such as skiing. Liability was denied by the hotel but the case resolved successfully at the hearing.


BOAT ACCIDENT

Christopher suffered burns in a boating accident on Pittwater when he fell into an uncovered hole as he walked through the captain’s cabin.
 A claim was made against the boat owner for having failed to warn that the hole was uncovered or failing to ensure that the cabin area was safe. 
There were differing versions of how the accident occurred and there was some significant resistance put up by the owner, who was uninsured, to pay anything. 
Finally a settlement which was satisfactory to all parties was negotiated.