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October 2020

Worker’s credibility tested after seeking damages for an injury

Worker’s credibility tested after seeking damages for an injury

The Case

Johnson v Fraser Coast Regional Council (2020)

Fraser Coast Regional Council (FCRC) employed Mr Johnson as a plant operator. In the course of his employment, Mr Johnson was required to cover the load on his truck with a tarpaulin, securing it with hooks. In September 2014, Mr Johnson claimed that while covering the load on his truck, he fell and twisted his knee. Thereafter, Mr Johnson alleged he suffered chronic pain.

Mr Johnson made a common law claim seeking damages from FCRC in relation to the injury. He claimed that the task of covering the load with a tarpaulin was unsafe as he had to reach forward to grab a rope while balancing on one foot, then step to the ground with his other foot. There were no hand-holds to hold onto and he had fallen, twisting his knee.

FCRC alleged Mr Johnson’s injury was caused by his pre-existing knee condition as a result of two injuries in 1994 and 2011 involving a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus. Furthermore, FCRC claimed Mr Johnson had failed to take reasonable care and had not complied with the relevant safe work methods.

Mr Johnson alleged that FCRC was claiming that Mr Johnson had engaged in fraud, so he applied to the District Court of Queensland for a ruling to prevent FCRC from pursuing a case that he had deliberately embellished the effect of the work injury.

The Verdict

The District Court Judge:

  • declined to make the ruling requested by Mr Johnson;
  • ruled there was video evidence provided to Mr Johnson’s lawyers that allegedly demonstrated inconsistencies with Mr Johnson’s description of his symptoms, pain level and incapacity to work; and
  • held that FCRC’s argument was that Mr Johnson’s injury had not occurred as he claimed, and it had not and was not necessary for FCRC to plead that Mr Johnson was lying.

The Lessons

Work injury damages claims can be difficult. It is important to consider all the facts and investigate the matter thoroughly to determine if the reason for the injury is valid on the facts.

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