Part of the work of a roulette dealer is to gather chips used by gamblers and sort them into stacks by colour.
In 2004, Lidija Romig was a part-time roulette dealer at Brisbane’s Treasury Casino. She had worked in the job for nine years. On a Friday night in September the 51-yr-old Slovenian born croupier was working a “left-hand” table, standing to the right of the chipping machine with her players standing to her right.
As usual, she swept chips that had been played into the mouth of the chipping machine attached to the table, to allow it to sort the chips and spit them into a tray of chutes which sat beside her, just under the table.
She repeatedly reached out below table level with her left hand about 90 cm to remove stacks of chips from the farthest chute to return them to the table. This was the fifth “left-hand” table she was required to work that night when mostly, such assignments are rotated right/left/right etc.
As she did so she turned her head to the right to check that the gamblers were not misbehaving. On one of the occasions when reaching into the chipping chute with her left arm extended and looking down the table to her right, she felt a terrible pain in her neck and pins and needles.
She went home from work before her shift finished, although not until 9.45 pm, after first reporting the event to the duty nurse and notifying other staff. On Monday she consulted a doctor and was eventually diagnosed with a likely prolapsed disc when reaching across the chipping machine. She has not worked since.
Treasury defended Romig’s Supreme Court injury lawsuit on the basis that the task was so basic, each dealer would perform it in a manner that came naturally to them. No specific instruction on how to safely use the chipping machine was therefore needed.
Justice Jean Dalton rejected that argument. “The chipping machine was an unusual piece of equipment. It was used quickly and repeatedly by those dealing roulette. There was obvious potential for employees to adopt a poor technique in using it.”
Romig succeeded in convincing the court that the casino was negligent.
But as to damages, the court considered her “evidence about medical matters was odd and unsatisfactory insofar as she seemed unwilling to discuss past history involving depression and medication”. There was no doubt that she injured her left neck that night while dealing roulette but it was of the view that other issues also played some part in her decision to stop work from September 2006.
Neurologist Michael Weidmann assessed a 15% impairment but with only half attributable to the prolapsed disc, the other half being due to “degeneration”.
Damages for past lost income were only allowed until April 2009 by which point her honour found “that she was able to work, not as a roulette dealer, but in some sedentary position, say as a social worker” the profession in which she had trained in Europe. Her damages were assessed at $213k.