A pizza delivery driver assaulted when locking up a Deception Bay restaurant has sued Domino’s Pizza for failing to provide adequate staff security.
Wayne Adlington had worked for Domino’s “on and off” for nearly 3 years before he was set upon in January 2012.
He and manager Krystal Davis had been confronted by the band of 8 – 10 male teenagers while walking to their cars after exiting the front of the store.
A menacing but largely jocular confrontation ensued with two of their number climbing into Adlington’s car before making off on foot, to the opposite side of the road with the pizza he was waiting to enjoy when he finally got home at the end of his shift.
Relieved that the conflict had only cost them one thin ‘n’ crispy, the pair then drove in tandem to the back of the store to collect the bagged-up trash that company rules demand be dumped into industrial bins further along in the shopping centre car park.
According to Davis, while her colleague was loading the trash into the boot of his car, he began “yelling backwards and forwards” to the teenagers in a taunting fashion.
Soon enough, one of the youths sauntered back across the road and a scuffle began in to which the others quickly joined. When police arrived, three of the hooligans were still kicking and punching Adlington as he lay on the ground.
He sued Dominos in Brisbane’s District Court for his injury-related losses for failing to provide adequate training, an adequate system for rubbish disposal and failing to arrange a security escort for staff engaged in end-of-trade lock up.
A history of similar confrontations in the hours of darkness and an instruction in the training manual as to how to respond to robbery attempts were sufficient for Judge Suzanne Sheridan concluding that the risk of injury through violence was indeed foreseeable to the employer.
The training manual ought to have gone even further thought the judge, by reinforcing what was in any event common sense, with an instruction to staff not to incite or even engage – as Adlington had done – any potential antagonist.
She then concluded though that even had such training being given, it would not have prevented the victim – “who was clearly annoyed by the action of the youths in stealing his pizza” – from behaving as he did.
“Mr Adlington could not resist yelling at them. No amount of training would be likely to have prevented his spontaneous reaction”.
What then of the advisability of providing staff with a security escort?
NSR Security’s John Ellis swore during the course of the three day trial that a lock-up escort could have been offered for as little as $15 per night for a 15 minute service.
But according to Her Honour, Adlington failed to demonstrate “the economic feasibility” of Domino’s incurring that expense.
“Given there was no reported incident at lock-up times involving serious injury and the close procedure already requiring two staff members,” she wrote “I am not satisfied it was reasonable for Dominos to incur such additional expense.”
His claim was thus dismissed.
In her precautionary assessment of damages, Her Honour noted Adlington’s injuries were mainly psychological with psychiatrist Chris Slack diagnosing an adjustment order with anxiety and depression.
Domino’s was able to dent his case by unearthing YouTube footage that depicted the worker engaging in merriment dressed as Britney Spears. But although Dr Slack conceded such behaviour was inconsistent with depression, he rejected the fast-food-co’s assertion that it was incompatible with an adjustment disorder.
Aldington’s only consolation is that his assailant was apprehended, charged and dealt with in the Magistrates Court.