Prasad v Ingham’s Enterprises Pty Ltd  QCA 147 is a decision of the Queensland Court of Appeal relating to the extent of an employer’s liability for a workplace injury.
The appellant in this case, joins a long line of other personal injury claimants who are able to establish their employee breached its duty of care but falter at proving a link between that breach and their injury. It is not enough to prove that the measures a defendant failed to adopt may have prevented the complainant’s injury. The test is much higher than this and requires that the injury would have been prevented or minimised.
The applicant was employed from 1994-1997 and again in 2000 at the respondent’s chicken processing plant at Murarrie in Queensland. Her main task was packing chicken pieces into plastic trays. The appellant who wore rubber boots as part of her uniform spent 90% of her time working in an area that was cooled at 13 degrees celsius and had a concrete floor. In 2006, the rubber mats that were placed on the concrete floors were removed for health and safety reasons.
In March 2010, the appellant reported that she was suffering from pain in her feet and swollen and red heels. She sought medical evidence from various health professionals and as a result she wastransferred to light duties when her feet became too sore to perform her usual duties. In June 2010, her employment was terminated.
The appellant later received four treatments for both her heels in hospital and as her condition improved, she resumed part time employment with another employer. In 2011, the appellant commenced proceedings alleging that the respondent’s negligence had caused her to develop plantar fasciitis.
The trial decision
The trial judge held that the removal of the mats and a failure to undertake a risk assessment did not constitute negligence on the part of the respondent.
Issue on appeal
The Court had to determine whether the trial judge had erred in not finding that the respondent had breached its duty and that based on the medical evidence, there was no causation.
Decision of the Court of Appeal
The Court considered whether the replacement of the rubber mats, or other measures would have either prevented or minimized the appellant’s injury. This was done to determine whether the respondent had breached its duty of care.
The Court held that the respondent’s failure to undertake a risk assessment on the removal of the mats was a breach of its duty of care. Had the risk assessment been done, the exercise of reasonable care would have required them to implement other measures including anti-fatigue matting for workers.
The difficulty in proving causation was in the appellant proving on the balance of probabilities that the measures the respondent failed to adopt would have prevented or minimised her injuries. That is, the cause of the injury had to be more than a ‘mere existence of an association between the respondent’s breach and the occurrence of her condition’.
The Court concluded that the expert evidence was that the measure the respondent failed to adopt may have lowered the appellant’s risk of plantar fasciitis, however none of the experts could confirm that such measures would have prevented her condition. On this basis, the appellant was unsuccessful in proving causation that the respondent’s negligence had caused her injury.
The key lesson from this decision is that there is a high threshold in proving causation that a defendant’s negligence caused the appellant’s injury. The test is not whether the injury may have been prevented; rather it requires that the injury would have been prevented or minimised.
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