Taylor v Invitro Technologies Pty Ltd [2010] QSC 282

Published 04 Dec 2015

These proceedings revolved around the Plaintiff, Miss Taylor, who fell whilst working at her place of employment with the Defendant, Invitro Technologies.

The facts of this matter revolve around the Plaintiff’s work station. Upon starting work with the employer, she had carpet under her desk and chair. Some week after the commencement of employment, plastic mats were provided for the office to be placed under all work chairs.

The issue was that the mats which were provided were extremely slippery, and whenever you were to stand up or slightly touch the chair it was surprising as to how far the chair would actually move. On the stated date of accident, Miss Taylor stood up from her chair to retrieve a book from the top shelf of her bookcase. As she commenced to sit back down she found the chair was not there and she fell to the floor, hitting her face in the process of the fall. Due to the slippery nature of the mat, the chair had slid out of reach when it ought to have stayed where it was.

Negligence

The Defendant contended that the mat had no causal relationship with the Plaintiff’s fall as the Plaintiff simply slipped from her chair as she attempted to resume her seat.

Judge Boddice did not accept the Defendant’s claim, instead stating:

“I accept the Plaintiff sustained personal injury when she, as part of her normal duties of employment, attempted to resume her seat on a chair located on the plastic mat.”

The biggest factor for the judge making this determination was the fact that the Plaintiff and a colleague of hers complained about how slippery the mats were and requested they be moved away.

Judge Boddice found that:

“An employer is obliged to provide a safe workplace. In satisfying its obligation in this regard, a reasonable employer ought to have regard to complaints made by employees as to the safety of equipment they are directed to use in the course of their employment.”

It was found that the Defendant breached the duty of care in the following manner:

  1. Instructing and/or requiring the Plaintiff to use the chair whilst it was positioned on the mat;
  2. Failing to act on complaints that the chair was slippery when used on the mat;
  3. Failing to remove the mat.

Award for Damages

The Plaintiff was awarded $419,461.36 in damages. Of most importance are the following heads of damages:

  1. Past Economic Loss

The Plaintiff was awarded over $60,000.00 for her lost income from the date of injury until the date the decision was handed down.

  1. Future Economic Loss

The Plaintiff was awarded $265,000.00 for her loss of future income. The Plaintiff has since found new employment whereby she is earning 40% less than her pre-injury earnings.

  1. General Damages

The Plaintiff was awarded $60,000.00 for the pain and suffering this injury had caused to her enjoyment of life.

  1. Future Expenses

The Plaintiff was awarded $30,000.00 for future medical expenses.

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