A council roadsign checker who sustained a disc injury in early 2006 as he slipped from a truck step while descending and fell to the road below, is the beneficiary of a $642,000 judgement delivered this month by the Brisbane Supreme Court.
The court was of the view that “an aggressive high grip contact surface” on the rung of the step would have provided frictional resistance and decrease the risk of slipping. However, there was no direct evidence that such a surface would have prevented the slip.
The plaintiff contended that such a conclusion was simply a matter of “common sense”. After considerable discussion of the manner in which such evidence might be cast for example by calculating a coefficient of friction based on the number of assumptions, His Honour concluded in the end that it was indeed a question of common sense on the balance of probabilities, that the Council should have used a nonslip surface and its absence materially contributed to the slip.
Accordingly, the plaintiff made out his case and the court proceeded to assess appropriate quantum of damages.
Against a total ask of more than $920,000, the court ultimately assessed $643,000 including loss of future earning capacity at $253,000 in past income loss of $175,000.
As against the truck manufacturer – Paulger Engineering – no negligence or breach of duty was made out. The truck had been manufactured in accordance with Council specifications and the plaintiff had been unable to establish that a safer design that it contended for but which agreed was “highly unusual”, was something that ought to have been allowed for “to conform to standard industry practice”.