The loss by police of CCTV footage of the ejection of a patron from a Gladstone hotel was critical to a dispute over whether the pub should pay its customer damages for the shattered leg he sustained in the incident.
“In good spirits” but not drunk according to two friends whose homes he had visited en route, Matt Carlyon put away at least 20 rum & cokes from mid-afternoon on a Friday in May 2009. On arrival at the Queen’s Hotel shortly before midnight, he had one drink in the front bar before moving to the Liquid Lounge to join a group.
After slamming down in the group of glasses onto the bar, 29-yr-old Carlyon was asked by bar staff to leave. Security was called in aid of that request. He was then directed to the front door by a New Zealand born Shaan Ioane who carried at least 40 kg more in weight than his 80 kg charge.
Pleas to halt the eviction en route to the front door prompted Ioane to apply a headlock and a colleague to grab his arms from behind.
They push-walked him towards the front stairs down which he fell, with his heavy set escort landing on top. The resulting injuries severely curtailed Carlyon’s role as mechanical fitter at the Callied power station. He sued the hotel claiming security staff had assaulted him and had been negligent and that the hotel had failed to provide “a safe system security.”
His lawyers produced evidence from a security expert that the headlock was an inferior means of crowd control in that it posed safety risks both to a patron and to evictors. But never having worked as a security guard, John Pettit was unable to counter contentions from hotel security staff that a headlock was a reasonable alternative to subdue an uncooperative patron.
“I consider that the use of the headlock which did not involve restriction of airways, dislocation of the neck or deliberate infliction of pain was reasonable in the circumstances,” ruled Justice Ann Lyons in Brisbane’s Supreme Court.
“Reasonable” measures having been applied, Carlyon failed on his assault allegation. Were the bouncers responsible for his fall down the stairs?
The absence of the video records – that police conceded had been lost – the court had to decide whether it was a push sent the exuberant patron tumbling down the steps, or whether he and his ejector had merely stumbled before their fall.
It heard evidence came from hotel manager Warren Holland and guard Adrian O’Dea as well as a police notebook summary of the lost footage, prepared to decide whether or not charges were appropriate over the incident. In the judge’s view, the “stumble, trip or fall that occurred was most likely the result of the plaintiff’s actions, not those of security staff.”
Carlyon was denied the $300k that the court assessed was the fair measure of loss – mostly to his future income – from the leg and knee injury.