Brick cleaner falls 4.5m from scaffolding, awarded $1,043,000 in damages

Jul 12, 2023 | Publication

In 2007, the plaintiff was working as a self-employed brick cleaner on a building site, occupied by the defendant, a building company, at the time of the incident. The plaintiff fell approximately 4.5 metres, from scaffolding onto a pile of bricks. The scaffolding was allegedly erected incorrectly, and the plaintiff suffered serious injury, which exacerbated pre-existing injuries. As a result, the plaintiff brought claims against the occupier of the premises, the defendant, for negligence and claimed damages.

As per Zammit J at 350: “The critical issue in this case was to what extent the plaintiff’s fall caused or materially contributed to his back and neck conditions. Liability was also hotly contested but it was not as complex as causation.”

The defendant accepted that it owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, as occupier of the building site, however, denied that there was a breach of that duty. If a breach was to be found, that the plaintiff contributed to the negligence as there was an obvious risk being on the scaffolding bay. Additionally, the defendant argued that the cause of the injury was not material because the plaintiff’s injuries were wholly pre-existing.

The Court found in favour of the plaintiff, rejecting the argument of contributory negligence, and awarded the plaintiff damages of $1,043,000, for general damages, economic loss, attendant care and medical expenses. It was found that the breach was due to deficient scaffolding, which did not have fall protection and was inadequately assembled.

The decision of Bucic v Arnej Pty Ltd  VSC 330 can be read in full here.

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