Truck driver gets $500K in defective seat injury compensation

Not replacing worn seat seen as duty of care breach by employer

Truck driver gets $500K in defective seat injury compensation
The case was heard at the Queensland Supreme Court


Severe injuries caused by a defective truck seat has seen a driver awarded more than half a million dollars in compensation. 

The Queensland Supreme Court awarded James Anthony Griffin, 38, damages for injury and consequential loss and harm while working for Burleigh Marr Distributions.

The court heard the use of the seat culminated in an acute disc prolapse and permanent disability as a result of a spinal injury.

Griffin started driving a Fuso in August 2013 that had already travelled about 559,000km, driving about 3,000km a week between Townsville and Rockhampton.

He testified that he complained to his supervisor, Townsville depot manager Neil Sayers, of the seat "bottoming out" and causing discomfort on about a weekly basis between August 20 and mid-October 2013 and again from late October to March 2014, keeping some of those records in a diary.

Truck driver awarded $1.7 million following compensation win

The truck underwent seat repairs in October 2013.  

Mechanic Peter Fry gave evidence that he quoted the costs of repairs to the seat at about $2,000 and a replacement seat at $5,000, with the firm choosing the former.

Fry says he recommended replacing the entire seat with a heavier one if there were continuing complaints, but received no feedback from Sayers thereafter.

Griffin says he complained that after these repairs the truck continued to bottom out and was still uncomfortable to drive.

In a particular incident on March 14, 2014, "he came down in the seat a bit harder than normal" and felt pain through his back and down his leg like "pins and needles". 

He says he reported the pain but was told to continue with the delivery, which he did, and returned the next day in pain.

Three other truck drivers gave evidence detailing similar experiences with the truck, supporting Griffin’s account of ongoing problems and complaints.

Sayers acknowledged complaints before the October 2013 repairs but denied complaints after the repairs until a March 14, 2014 incident.

Judge David North ruled in favour of Griffin, describing it a breach of employer’s duty of care, citing "the failure of Mr Sayers to act on the advice of Mr Fry and to authorise a replacement of the chair in the circumstances of the continuing complaints after the 2013 repairs".

He also dismissed defence contentions that Griffin may have been contributorily negligent for failing to adequately report the problems after the repairs, and Fry for the quality of repair of the truck, noting the "evidence does not demonstrate that the work was done incompetently".

In considering the damages, the court heard Griffin underwent an unsuccessful operation while physiotherapy only provided temporary improvement, and he relies on painkillers for relief. 

He currently works as a personal care attendant in a permanent part-time capacity up to 30 hours a week "but usually can only manage approximately 26 hours".

He was awarded $630,687.98 minus a $76,335.46 WorkCover refund, with the total coming to $554,352.52.

That comprises about $70,000 for general and special damages, $225,000 for past loss of earnings, $20,000 for past loss of superannuation, $265,000 for future loss of earnings, $30,000 for future loss of superannuation, and $13,000 for future expenses.


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