Phillips v MCG Group Pty Ltd [2012] QSC 149

This was an action run by WorkCover Queensland as a quantum only trial with liability having been admitted prior to the trial. In essence, the only key issue in dispute was economic loss.

The worker was employed as a scraper driver at a mine site, when on 28 August 2008 he injured his back in an accident. He had only been working with the Employer for two weeks when he was injured. The worker was 51 years of age when the accident occurred. Notably, he had previously sustained a serious injury to his lumbar spine in 1990. In 1992 he underwent a spinal fusion operation which resulted in him taking significant levels of narcotic pain killing medication since that date to manage his pain.

Sometime after the operation in 1992, the worker did return to employment and for some years was undertaking sales work. For short periods, the worker also undertook some heavier work as a truck driver and storeman. His longest recent period of employment was as a taxi driver.

In April 2008 the worker underwent a medical assessment for coal mine work. He obtained a job with the Employer and argued, but for his accident, he would have continued in that work to retirement age of 67.

The trial judge, Mullins J, found although the worker was “tenacious in obtaining the job on a mine site and technically was capable of performing the job of a scraper driver for the two weeks before the accident, his aspirations for continuing that work have to be tempered by the reality of his pre existing condition that meant he suffered from chronic lower back pain, his medication regime and his prior work history…”

Her Honour ultimately found that by the time the Employer ceased its operations at the subject mine site on 22 December 2009 had the worker not been injured, his prospects of continuing to work on a mine site would have been “extremely limited or minimal so as to be not worth quantifying.”

On that basis, Her Honour found economic loss to be assessed at the worker’s pre accident rate as a taxi driver as opposed to the significantly higher rate of a scraper driver. Ultimately, the worker’s damages were assessed at $413,082.39 with a future economic loss component of $215,276.

The amount assessed by the court was less than the amount offered by WorkCover Queensland at the compulsory conference and as a result, the worker was required to pay WorkCover’s costs of the trial.

The worker has appealed the court’s decision for past and future economic loss arguing for higher figures. We will report when the outcome of the appeal is known.

To copy of the Judgment can be found here.