Wright v KB Nut Holdings Pty Ltd [2013] QCA 66

The Queensland Court of Appeal has held a hotel manager liable for a needlestick injury that a guest sustained while staying in a short-term rental apartment, reversing the original decision of no liability.

The trial judge had not been satisfied that a more competent cleaner or system of cleaning would have led to the discovery of the needle (which was in the crease of a stairwell and was dislodged by the guest when she was cleaning the apartment). He did not consider it reasonable to expect an apartment manager or cleaner to search and discover a concealed needle.

The Court of Appeal reversed this decision, finding that:

  1. it is likely a cleaner using normal skill, diligence and equipment would have detected the needle;
  2. it was probable that the needle was obscured from the guest’s vision as a direct result of the unclean state in which the apartment was handed over to her;
  3. the hotel manager knew or should have known of the risk of injury; and
  4. the build-up of ‘filth’ in the apartment increased the risk that dangerous objects would not be seen until after they were stood on or touched, which may have been with bare feet or hands.

The hotel manager was ordered to pay compensation of $494,759.38, plus interest.

This decision confirms the importance that rental property owners need to place on implementing thorough systems of regular cleaning and inspections.