In January 2012 Moyra Roane-Spray was being transferred from an ambulance at the Lamb Island ferry terminal en route to Redlands Hospital when the stretcher she was carried on collapsed at one end.
The fall left her with numerous injuries, aggravated her pre-existing degenerative spinal conditions and significantly restricted her mobility and independence.
Roane-Spray subsequently sought damages in negligence. In December 2016 she was successful in her claim and the State of Queensland – the employer of the paramedic who let the stretcher slip- was ordered by Judge John McGill to pay her $558K.
The State filed an appeal against the trial judges’ decision.
In presenting their claim, the State argued that it should be afforded protection in performing duties that enhance public safety – pursuant to Civil Liability Act section 27 – just like the QAS itself is.
That contention required a conclusion that the QAS was, in essence an ‘emanation of the Crown in right of the State of Queensland’.
Today three appeal court judges sitting in Brisbane unanimously dismissed this appeal.
In delivering the lead judgement, Justice Helen Bowskill concluded that the employer was in fact the State – not QAS – and although the QAS benefits from civil liability immunity under s 27 and is defined in its enabling legislation to include the ambulance officers serving within it – the immunity does not extend to the State itself.
“There is no basis that I can discern,” she ruled “for reading QAS where it appears in schedule 2 to the Civil Liability Regulation, as “State of Queensland”.
“As a matter of policy, it may be accepted as being in the public interest to protect an entity such as the Queensland Ambulance Service, [including] ambulance and medical officers, from litigation and liability where it is performing services,” but there was no reason that such protection should apply in this case.
The State must now pay up the damages plus Roane-Spray’s legal costs of the appeal.
For more on the trial judges decision see:
Paramedic drops stretcher, Island Stroke Victim gets $560K
State of Queensland v Roane-Spray  QCA 245