A young worker who suffered permanent injuries after an accident at a Woolworths Big W store in Canberra has been awarded more than $543,000 in compensation by the ACT Supreme Court.
The employee was hit in the shins by a work cage, from which she was removing boxes, after it was struck by a forklift.
The force caused her to step backwards and extend her back, resulting in immediate pain to her lower back and the back of her legs.
Following the incident, three doctors confirmed that the sudden action of the accident aggravated a back condition that was previously asymptomatic but was now causing ongoing pain.
She also suffered with an adjustment disorder, making her angry and impatient.
The worker sued her employer for past and future loss of earnings.
Due to her injury, she had to turn down a place on a paramedics degree course she was offered. When she later commenced studying a law degree, she had to discontinue by the second semester, as the pain she was suffering interfered with her ability to concentrate.
Woolworths contested that the employee “grossly over exaggerated the nature and extent of her disability”.
At the trial, Woolworths submitted a number of CCTV videos recorded at the Big W store after the incident that showed the worker shopping with “no obvious sign of disability”.
The company also hired a private investigator who filmed her walking around a lake “briskly without apparent restriction”.
But Justice David Mossop rejected the evidence, stating: “I consider that her level of pain and disability is … not outwardly debilitating but is at the level which will significantly interfere with the quality of her life and restrict her capacity to work because of physical difficulties with repetitive or continuous activities.”
The employee submitted she should be awarded $680,887 for future economic loss, but the judge calculated her total damages to be $543,243, with Woolworths also paying her legal costs.