Written by Peter CarterFebruary 19, 2016
Jane Farnham used her own car to get from her home to the many locations she was required to visit in her role as “community visitor” for Queensland’s Children’s Commission.
She scheduled visits and wrote them up using her own computer from her home office.
At-home work was paid as was her time on the road. An allowance of 75c/km was to reimburse her for the overhead of her runabout.
In May 2012 – following her normal routine and not far from her first foster home destination for the day – her car was rammed at high speed from behind and pushed into the path of an oncoming truck.
She developed a cervical spine injury and an adjustment order with anxiety and depression.
The fault for the accident was admitted by RACQ as CTP insurer for the at-fault driver. Was she travelling to work or between places of employment?
Farnham argued that she came with the WorkCover exception in Civil Liability Act s 5 – because her travel was between one place of work (at home) and another (the foster home) – so that damages should be assessed at common law.
The trial judge took a different view. His analysis was that the journey was from her home to work. That meant the claim came within the exception to the exception which applies the CLA and its artificial constructs to the assessment of motor accident journey claim damages.
The appeal judges agreed. The mere fact that worker does some work at home does not mean that the place loses the character of a “home” or “usual place of residence”.
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Phillip Morrison ruled that the fact that she was paid for the time she worked at home did not alter the character of the location to one of “a place of employment”.
Those circumstances might lead to the argument that the worker was under the control of the employer during that time but it did not change the nature of the above.
The circumstances also came within the operation of WCRA s 32 because her employment was a significant contributing factor to the accident.
Employment significantly contributed to her injury because “the exigencies of employment” – in this case driving – significantly contributed to the accident caused by the third party.