03 December 2018

In a recent appeal, the Full Federal Court has upheld the decision of a single judge of the Federal Court in which an employer was ordered to compensate a truck driver injured when he became involved in a couple’s domestic dispute at a service station.

Facts

The plaintiff was employed by Linfox Australia as a tanker driver. While delivering a tanker load of fuel, he became involved in a couple’s domestic dispute at a service station. Ultimately, the husband punched the truck driver in the face and a fight ensued.

There was evidence that the truck driver did not initiate the fight. However, he did retaliate to the husband’s aggressive advances in a manner that escalated, rather than diffused, the situation.

The truck driver sustained a knee injury and facial injuries and claimed compensation from Linfox.

Decision at first instance

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that the plaintiff’s injuries were sustained in the course of his employment, but that Linfox was not required to compensate him under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth) because, in provoking the husband, the plaintiff had voluntarily and unreasonably submitted himself to an abnormal risk of injury.

Appeal to the Federal Court

The plaintiff appealed to the Federal Court, which overturned the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and found that the plaintiff was entitled to compensation.

The Court found that whether or not the plaintiff had voluntarily and unreasonably submitted himself to an abnormal risk of injury was irrelevant in circumstances where the plaintiff’s injury was in the course of his employment within section 5A(1)(b) of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth).

Appeal to the Full Federal Court

Linfox appealed to the Full Federal Court. In October 2018, the Full Court upheld the decision of the Federal Court. The Full Court agreed that, given the plaintiff’s injury was in the course of his employment under the Act, there was no need to consider whether he had voluntarily and unreasonably submitted himself to an abnormal risk of injury.

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