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Damages awarded to former mining employee

Martin v Golding Contractors Pty Ltd [2014] QSC 053

North J

27 March 2014

In this case, while liability was admitted, the amount of damages was in dispute. The injured worker (the plaintiff) was a 23 year old female who had a high paying job in the mining industry and good prospects for long term mining employment prior to the injury.

Background

The plaintiff was employed as a truck driver by Golding Contractors at Ensham Mine near Emerald. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was reversing a large mining truck to manoeuver it into a position where it could be loaded by a digger. While still moving backwards, she felt a huge impact to the rear of the truck.

She sustained an injury to her cervical and lumbar spine on 27 March 2009 and liability was admitted by the defendant, Golding Contractors.

After the accident, the plaintiff continued to suffer from lower back pain and she was unable to return to her previous role.

Liability

The defendant admitted liability for the accident and the issue to be determined was the amount of the damages.

Judgment

In relation to the assessment of witnesses, North J found that the plaintiff's evidence was honest and free from exaggeration.

He preferred the plaintiff's witness, Dr Maguire, orthopaedic surgeon, over Dr Gibberd, the orthopaedic physician who appeared on behalf of the defendant.

The judge felt the plaintiff's witnesses regarding her prospects of continued employment in the mining industry were impressive and were preferred over the defendant's witnesses regarding the downturn in the mining industry and the cut back in staff by the defendant.

North J accepted the plaintiff's evidence regarding her pain and her intention to remain working in the mining industry without any break for the raising of children. He also found that she had excellent prospects of obtaining highly remunerative employment in the mining industry if she had been fit to work as a truck driver or plant operator.

The judgment for the plaintiff was $1,415,094.09, clear of the WorkCover refund. This included $90,000 general damages for pain and suffering, $330,000 for past economic loss and $700,000 for future economic loss.