Compensation for Back Injuries at Work Awarded in Court after Fall from Chair

A woman, who fell from a faulty chair in her office, has been awarded more than Au$1million compensation for back injuries at work by a court in Australia.

Terry Anne Downie (51) from Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory was working as a team leader for the Community Information and Referral Service in Canberra when she purchased furniture on behalf of her employer – including a chair for her own use at work – from the ex-government furniture outlet store – Fyshwick.

Four months later, Terry Anne was sitting on the chair while talking on the telephone, when two spokes on the plastic moulding at the base of the chair snapped, causing her to fall to the floor. A co-worker who saw the accident said that she heard a loud crack and then saw Terry Anne lying on the floor, struggling to get up.

An ambulance was summoned and Terry Anne was taken to hospital, where it was discovered that the accident had caused a disc to swell and Terry Anne´s pain was caused by the disc being in contact with a nerve root in her spine. Doctors were unable to repair the damage and Terry Anne now suffers from a permanent tingling sensation under the skin of her legs, which has prevented her from maintaining a job since the accident and has been identified as the cause of a mental illness and early onset sexual dysfunction.

Terry Anne received Au$190,000 in worker´s compensation for back injuries at work in 2005 but, backed by her former employer, she also made a private claim for compensation against the company that imported the faulty chair from China in kit form – Jantom – claiming that the product was faulty when it was delivered to the company that she had purchased it from – Fyshwick.

Jantom and their insurers denied their liability for Terry Anne´s back injuries at work but, at the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, Judge Master David Harper ruled in favour of the plaintiff after hearing expert testimony that the plastic moulding on the base of the chair had “failed catastrophically” and resulted in two of the five supporting spokes breaking.

The judge awarded Terry Anne Au$933,030 compensation for back injuries at work to reflect the pain and suffering she has experienced since her accident and a further Au$112,000 to cover past, present and future medical expenses. After announcing the compensation settlement, Master David Harper said “Terry Anne has many years ahead of pain and depression. Her life is very different to the life she could have expected if it had not been for her injury. Her enjoyment of life, and the kind of life she is able to lead, have been altered immeasurably.”