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Case Study: Contributory Negligence & Workers Compensation Claims

Kennedy v Queensland Alumina Limited.

Paul Kennedy was employed by Queensland Alumina Limited, when he was sprayed by caustic solution whilst opening a pipe for maintenance. Caustic Solution is a highly corrosive material and when it meets with skin, it can severely irritate and burn. As a result, Mr. Kennedy suffered burns to his left ankle and developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Judge found that contributory negligence was in effect here after considering the evidence. Contributory negligence is when the injured party is considered partly liable for their injury. Depending on the severity and a number of other considerations, a plaintiff’s damages may be reduced or the case may be dismissed.

Although Queensland Alumina Limited were without doubt responsible, Mr. Kennedy had opened a pipe carrying the caustic solution without isolating the pipe effectively. The Court found that the employer failed to ensure that an adequate system was in place for marking of the valves which would make certain that an operator knew when they were opening or closing them. However, Mr. Kennedy was adequately trained to know how the mechanisms worked.

Due to contributory negligence Mr. Kennedy’s damages were reduced by 50%. Gross damages assessed were $486,613 before reductions for contributory negligence. The WorkCover refund reduced the award to $191,061.

What is contributory negligence?

Contributory negligence, in relation to workers compensation, is used to describe a situation where an employee is partly at fault for their injury. Examples of this could be:

A construction worker that had not received adequate safety training, falling from a ladder because they failed to remove any obvious obstacles where it was reasonable to do so.

How does contributory negligence work?

Contributory negligence works on the bases that an individual has a certain level of duty as a reasonable person to keep themselves safe. If they are injured during a situation where they haven’t prevent were it was reasonable to do so, they can be held partially responsible for the accident.

The Courts can determined the percentage of responsibility and this will affect the settlement compensation amount.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: September 7, 2017.

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