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Future economic loss and paid services past retirement age

This case demonstrates

  • Courts may make future economic loss allowances to workers past the age of retirement.
  • Courts can make allowances for future paid services that had been provided gratuitously by family members.

The facts

The claimant was a 56-year-old furniture removalist who was injured on 18 November 2005 when a walk-board, which weighed approximately 40 kilograms, fell on his head when it was accidentally released by a fellow worker. The claimant sustained a significant injury to his neck as well as a secondary psychiatric injury.

Liability

Liability was not contended. This matter proceeded to trial on the assessment of damages only. On 13 September 2010, the Court awarded the claimant $434 715 in damages. This award included $175 318.11 for future economic loss to the age of 70, and $13 495 for future lawn mowing expenses.

Judgement

The judgement of this case is significant for two reasons. Firstly it demonstrates that Courts may make future economic loss allowances to workers past the age of retirement. Secondly, the Court made an allowance for future paid services that were provided gratuitously by family members.

The allowance by the Court for future lawn mowing expenses was made on the basis that before the accident the claimant mowed his own yard without restrictions. However following the workplace injury, the claimant required his relatives to assist with this task. The claimant also paid a commercial operator to mow his lawn about eight times prior to the trial and wished to do so in the future if he had the money.

WorkCover submitted that such an allowance for future paid services was not allowed by the legislation and therefore should not be made in this situation. The Judge disagreed and took the view that the provisions in the legislation that dealt with these circumstances were ambiguous. The Court found that if Parliament had truly wanted to preclude the recovery for such services it would have done so clearly within the legislation.

On 26 October 2010 WorkCover lodged an appeal of this decision challenging the award of future aid services.

Other details

Court: Supreme Court Brisbane
Judge: Justice Douglas
Decision date: 29 September 2010