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Assaults by third parties

The Corporation of the Synod of the Diocese of Brisbane v Greenway [2017] QCA 103

Court of Appeal

26 May 2017

Background

Ms Greenway worked in a residential care facility as a support worker.

On the day in question she was charged with looking after a troubled youth, overnight. Ms Greenway was alone when the youth became verbally and physically aggressive towards her, smashing a window and threatening her with a glass shard. This was referred to as the first incident.

Ms Greenway managed to de-escalate the situation.

She telephoned her supervisor. He did not come to the premises or suggest she call the police. She remained overnight with the youth, alone. This was the second incident.

Ms Greenway suffered a psychiatric injury and was unable to return to work.

Judgement

At trial, the Judge found that there had been no breach of duty by the employer in relation to the 'first incident'.

However, the employer had breached its duty in its failure to train team leaders and establish guidelines for properly responding to events such as the incident which did occur.

The Judge found that this contributed to the injury (sustained due to the first incident) and she was satisfied as to causation.

The Appeal Court however, ruled that the Trial Judge had not properly applied the 'but for' test of causation required by s305D(1)(a) of the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003. She failed to consider whether, but for the acts and omissions that constituted the breach of duty, the injury would not have occurred. The Court of Appeal determined that the medical evidence did not go so far as that. It proved that it was no more than a possibility.

Special leave to the High Court was refused.