In the recent decision of Stokes v House With No Steps, the Supreme Court of Queensland held the plaintiff had not proved the employer breached its duty of care.

The plaintiff was employed by a residential care facility for severely disabled clients, House With No Step. The plaintiff was an experienced carer working in a facility with two severely disabled patients. After a physical altercation with one of the patients at the facility, the plaintiff claimed to have suffered serious physical and psychological injuries.

The Court held the employer was aware of the patient’s behaviour which had been outlined specifically in a positive behaviour support plan, therefore, the risk was foreseeable. The plaintiff argued the employer was negligent in failing to provide a swipe card, instead of a key, which she could access the office quickly, to provide the plaintiff with a safe place of refuge. However, the Court found the failure to fit a swipe card to the office did not cause the plaintiff’s loss and damage because the plaintiff had not proved, on the balance of probabilities, that the plaintiff’s incident would have been avoided by this step.

The Court was not persuaded that the plaintiff would have reacted to make a run for the office. It was just as likely the plaintiff would not have released her hold on the patient until he had settled down enough to allow her to safely escape to the office, whether or not faster access was available using the swipe card. There was no evidence of distances or times led by the plaintiff to establish the difference in using a key or swipe card to access to the office.

Therefore, the plaintiff had not established the defendant’s failure to provide a swipe access card to enter the office which caused the plaintiff’s injury from the incident.