Mr Ryan Briggs sought work injury damages from The New South Wales Police Force in respect of a psychological injury caused due to the exposure of traumatic events during the course of his duties as a general duties police officer.
At first instance in the District Court, the primary judge found in favour of Mr Briggs, accepting that the New South Wales Police Force had owed a duty of care to Mr Briggs, which had been breached, as the defendant had failed to take reasonable care to avoid exposing police officers to the foreseeable risk of psychological injury, which in turn, caused, aggravated and entrenched Mr Brigg’s injury due to the gruesome and traumatic events that Mr Briggs was exposed to in the course of his general duties.
The matter was appealed by the NSW Police Force, and successfully overturned. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal held that the defendant had not breached its duty of care owed to Mr Briggs.
This case significantly impacts all emergency services workers, including police officers, fire brigade and ambulance service workers.
Leeming JA referred to the plaintiff’s failure to identify a different, but specified system of work, which if it had been implemented and maintained across the entirety of the NSW Police Force, would have been a reasonable response to counter the foreseeable risk of psychological injury. Thus, Briggs has in essence limited an employers’ liability where there is no reasonable alternative to the system of work in force at the time of the alleged injury.
The Court of Appeal stated that breach of duty must be assessed in a prospective manner with reference to a postulated system applying to a class of members (i.e. general duties police officers). If a plaintiff cannot do this, they cannot show the reasonable care the employer should have taken and will unfortunately fail to establish negligence