Parmalat to pay almost $1m to injured truck driver

Truck driver receives mammoth compensation payout after crates of milk toppled from a truck and injured him

Parmalat to pay almost $1m to injured truck driver
Parmalat to pay almost $1m to injured truck driver
By Brad Gardner | October 2, 2013

A truck driver struck down with epilepsy after crates of milk toppled from a truck and fell on him has received a mammoth compensation payout of almost $1 million.

The Supreme Court of Queensland ordered dairy manufacturer Parmalat to compensate former employee Kean Austin $974,856.80 for an incident in 2008 at the company’s Richlands depot, south-west of Brisbane.

About 30 crates of milk weighing 540kg in total fell from Austin’s truck when he opened its back door, knocking the driver to the ground.

Austin suffered lacerations and was taken to hospital. He subsequently suffered epilepsy, including mental blanks, due to the accident.

"In this case there is evidence which I accept that the plaintiff never suffered epileptic absences before the accident, but suffered them after the accident…this accident did cause this plaintiff to suffer epilepsy," Judge Jean Dalton says.

Dalton awarded compensation for general and special damages and loss of earnings and says Austin will continue to experience mental blanks or absences and require medical supervision and medication for the rest of his life.

"He has suffered, and will continue no doubt to suffer, some anxiety and embarrassment because of the absences and because of the very fact of his having epilepsy," Dalton says.

"He will also suffer the lack of mobility caused by his inability to drive in the future."

Parmalat argued contributory negligence on Austin’s part, firstly claiming he caused the load in the trailer to shift by driving too fast and that he stacked the crates too high.

Dalton found there was no evidence to show Austin travelled too fast, while someone else stacked the crates he was delivering.

Parmalat also claimed Austin was negligent because he opened both rear doors of the truck at the same time, as opposed to standing behind one door as he opened it to shield himself from any falling load.

Austin told the court he only opened one door and that it would be like "committing suicide" if he opened both at once. He says the force of the falling load "just blew the door open on me".

"I am not persuaded that the plaintiff opened both doors at once. He says he did not. He knew it would be dangerous to do so," Dalton says.

During court proceedings, it was revealed the trailer Austin was using had a cracked and uneven floor, rust in critical areas, unserviceable doors and severe corrosion.

Dalton says Austin’s career as a truck driver is likely over.

"It seems unlikely that he will ever again work truck driving or operating machinery. He may eventually drive an ordinary car again, and that may increase his potential for employment."

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