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Damages awarded despite lie about pre-existing symptoms

This case demonstrates

  • Even if a Court finds that a worker has lied about their pre-existing symptoms, sustained serious injuries from previous non-work related events, or has credit issues, the Court can still award damages.

The facts

The injured worker (the plaintiff) was employed by Civil Mining and Construction Pty Ltd (the defendant) when he suffered a workplace injury on 28 November 2005. The worker was injured when he lifted a 90 kilogram manhole cover. He felt pain in his thoracic spine when he twisted his body to place the manhole cover to the side.

The worker claimed damages for personal injuries because he believed his injuries occurred during the course of his employment.

The worker had also suffered from an injury to his thoracic back and neck from a prior workplace injury in 1989. After the incident in 1989, the worker was advised to avoid heavy labour and to perform only light manual work. The worker however, stated the pain to his back that resulted from his 1989 incident, eventually disappeared and he had no residual pain until the incident in 2005.


Because of the circumstances of the accident, liability was admitted and the trial focussed on the 'quantum' (how much it is worth) of the claim.

The Court found the worker had significant ongoing problems from the first incident that prevented him from performing manual work. It ruled that the second incident caused only a minor exacerbation of these problems.

The Court found the worker failed to declare cash in hand work while he collected Centrelink payments at the same time, and the worker was guilty of lying to prospective employers about his 1989 back injury.

It was also identified the worker had been convicted on three occasions for producing and possessing dangerous drugs.

Despite these issues, the worker was awarded $118 859.34 including $40 000 for past economic loss and $35 000 for future loss of earning capacity.