A Cairns man has been awarded substantial damages after he sustained a debilitating lumbar disc protrusion at the Raintrees Woolies store in Cairns.
Michael Perkins was employed by Woolworths from August 2011 where he worked as a “back dock assistant” until he resigned in November 2011. His role required he employ the use of a ‘walkie stacker’ to unload pallets; some which exceeded 1000kg in weight.
For a period from September 2011, the machine became inoperable and was replaced with a hire unit for which – unlike his comprehensive induction on the walkie stacker – Perkins received no safe-handling training whatsoever.
The handling characteristics of the rented machine differed significantly from those of the unit it replaced. As a result Perkins and his colleagues resorted to manual handling by using steel bars to manoeuvre heavy pallets during unloading.
This practice continued to be used – with the grocery giant’s knowledge – until unbearable pain to his lower back and right thigh forced Perkins to resign.
Fast forward to the District Court in Cairns where Perkins injury compensation claim fell to be decided.
Woolworths denied the claim. Instead they argued that Perkins’ injuries were sustained during his work as a plumber – a role he commenced after ending his employment with them.
Perkins had neither reported the incident nor had he sought medical advice until four months later. This highlights just how important it is to get in touch with workers compensation lawyers as fast as possible to claim what you are entitled to.
Woolworths seized on these facts, along with inconsistences between Perkins account and documentary evidence, to contend the injuries were simply not compatible with Perkins’ story.
Judge Dean Morzone rejected this argument. Instead his honour concluded that Woolworths had acted negligently in permitting the ‘levering task’ which resulted in Perkins’ disablement. He contended that the medical records and solicitor’s correspondence were not ‘infallible indicators of the plaintiff’s reliability.’
Accordingly, Judge Morzone awarded Perkins a total of $788 669.98 in damages, which included compensation for past and future economic loss and future expenses. His honour also ordered Woolworths compensate Perkins for the costs of the proceeding.
Ultimately this case highlights the importance of immediately reporting injuries in the workplace. Although Perkins was successful in his claim, had he instantly recorded his injuries with Woolworths, it is possible he may have avoided lengthy court proceedings.