Foreman awarded $1.4 million after being buried chest high after excavation collapses

Mar 14, 2023 | Publication

Mr Cootes was employed as a foreman on a construction site, when he suffered serious injuries following an excavation collapsed on him. The collapsed excavation caused fractures to his lower back, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The plaintiff brought claims for damages against his employer Concrete Panels, the principal contractor, and the site supervisor. 

The incident occurred when the plaintiff attempted to retrieve a drill he noticed laying at the bottom of the trench when the excavation suddenly collapsed. His rescuer found Mr Cootes buried to the top of his chest. The trench was 700mm deep, however, to one side sat a 2.6m high excavation ‘face’.

The plaintiff had previously complained about the safety of the trench, and raised concerns of it caving in. The first defendant argued for 50% contributory negligence, however, Crow J found that although it was a misjudgement, it should not be judged with the benefit of hindsight and did not accept the argument of contributory negligence.

The Court found in favour of the plaintiff and found a duty of care was owed to the plaintiff from all three defendants, and that duty was breached. The total assessment of damages was awarded at $548,612.95 for the first defendant, and $909,504 for the second and third defendant.

The decision of Cootes v Concrete Panels & Ors  QSC 146 (Crow J) can be read in full here: 

The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this publication is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. We are not responsible for the information of any source to which a link is provided or reference is made and exclude all liability in connection with use of these sources. If you do not wish to receive newsletters from us, please let us know.

Latest Insights

New Coercive Control Laws in NSW as of 1 July 2024

From 1 July 2024, coercive control will be a crime in NSW when a person uses abusive behaviours towards a current or former intimate partner with the intention to coerce or control them. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Act 2022makes it an...

Key Rules on Discovery Procedures for Prospective Defendants

Rules 5.2 and 5.3 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 (UCPR) provide essential guidelines on discovery aimed at identifying or locating prospective defendants. These rules are instrumental in the pre-litigation process, ensuring that applicants can gather...

5 Ways A Director Can Be Sued

Directors can be sued for all sorts of reasons.  Here are 5 of them. Reason #1: Insolvent Trading A director can be sued if the company he or she is a director of trades whilst insolvent.  A director has a duty to prevent the company trading and incurring...

7 Ways to Enforce a Judgment

After a judgment is obtained for an amount of money, there are numerous options open to a judgment creditor in relation to how to enforce the judgment (i.e. how to obtain the money which is owed pursuant to the judgment). Option #1: Issue a Bankruptcy Notice If the...

Who Can Bring a Compensation to Relatives Claim?

In the unfortunate event of a loved one's passing due to negligence or wrongful act, the Compensation to Relatives Act 1897 in New South Wales outlines the parameters for pursuing compensation on behalf of the deceased. Understanding who has the legal standing to...

10 Myths of Being Sued

If you or your business are sued, there are many myths about how the legal process will pan out.  Here are 10 myths about the legal process – all are incorrect. Myth #1: The matter will definitely go to a hearing Most matters settle before a Judge decides...