WA livestock transporter faces hefty injury payout

Amount reduced 20 per cent due to driver’s contributory negligence

WA livestock transporter faces hefty injury payout
Cattle transport risks are well-known


The law fails to recognise risks are obvious, a Western Australian district court has found in the case of an experienced cattle-truck driver injured in another driver’s trailer.

It was argued that the danger of entering a pen with a recalcitrant bull was plain and accepted in the livestock transport industry, a point supported by other driver witnesses.

Even district court justice Patrick O’Neal notes: "No one, including the plaintiff, needed to be told of what was blindingly obvious."

Despite that, Ward's Stock Transport is ruled to be 80 per cent responsible for the driver’s subsequent injuries, which saw him unable to continue working.

"As the defendant's counsel accepted in opening, the real issue is whether the plaintiff should have been instructed by the defendant not to, or perhaps better, never to enter a pen in these circumstances," the ruling reads.

"Having identified the issue in that way, the only answer ever offered on behalf of the defendant was that the risk was 'obvious'.

"In my view, employees should have been so instructed."

Read about Worksafe WA’s latest warning on commercial driver safety, here

O’Neal finds that within that shortfall resides a lack of a duty of care and that, given there was a known option of having three people deal with a balking animal, this should have been the company’s stated policy, no matter how experienced and respected the employee driver might be.

This failure is held to be "a breach of the defendant's duty at common law, and pursuant to the provisions of the OSHA [the WA Occupation Safety and Health Act] to 'so far as practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which the plaintiff was not exposed to hazards'."

Given the accident’s resulting chronic disabling pain for the driver, general damages are ruled at $130,000, reduced by 20 per cent to $104,000 due to the driver’s "contributory negligence", plus $45,725 for tax paid on the workers' compensation payments, $541,090 for economic loss and $59,347 for lost superannuation, also reflecting the contributory negligence reduction.

Apportioning contributory negligence in payments of $176,938.28 for medical bills, $25,000 for past and future gratuitous services, $48,352 for doctor’s bills and $15,000 for future treatment expenses, amongst other payments, had yet to be made before the ruling was published.


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