March 29, 2012

The District Court recently determined that a 50 year old delicatessen worker was entitled to around $440,000 damages after her feet were badly scalded by a jet of hot water when a plumbing fitting failed. In South Australia an injured worker is not permitted to sue their employer for negligence, however she sued the contractor who supplied the plumbing components involved. The Court decided that the contractor was negligent in either not supplying the right fitting or in not properly inspecting and maintaining the connection.

The Court accepted that dangerous environments can be easy to identify with hindsight, but that in this case the potential for the plumbing set up to cause a scalding injury to someone walking close to it was clear. It was held that the contractor owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure that the equipment it supplied and maintained was safe for all reasonably foreseeable uses, and that such a duty was owed to anyone whom it should have foreseen might be harmed. Just how far a supplier of equipment can be liable for harm caused by ordinary wear and tear did not have to be considered, since the contractor also performed monthly inspections and maintenance of the fitting and so should have been aware of any wear and tear that might cause it to become dangerous.

Many people who have a workers compensation claim as a result of an injury at work are not aware that when a third party has been negligent (such as the contractor in this case) they might have a separate claim for damages against that third party. Also, because of the limitations that apply to compensation payable under a WorkCover claim, it is very often the case that the compensation (or damages) payable by a negligent third party are significantly greater than workers compensation benefits. To find out more about product liability claims, workers compensation claims and claims against a negligent third party arrange an obligation free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Websters Lawyers have specialist injury lawyers in Adelaide and the North East who can provide you with the right advice about whether you have a potential claim against a third party regardless of whether you have an accepted workers compensation claim.

Ferenczfy v JohnsonDiversey Australia Pty Ltd [2012] SADC 22