Roane-Spray v State of Queensland [2016] QDC 348

McGill SC DCJ

The plaintiff claimed damages for personal injuries allegedly caused to her when she slid from an ambulance stretcher and hit her head on the bitumen. The plaintiff was being moved from the back of an ambulance on Moreton Island to a landing stage to a boat which would transport the plaintiff to a hospital on mainland Australia.

The plaintiff argued that the second legs of the stretcher did not deploy, resulting in the stretcher falling to the ground and the plaintiff’s head striking the bitumen. The paramedic on scene recalled that he did not hear the second legs click into place initially resulting only in a sudden jolt, but manoeuvred the stretcher into proper placement and stabilised it thereafter.

McGill SC DCJ accepted the plaintiff’s version of events, concluding that:

[40] … what actually happened is that, when the paramedic pulled the stretcher out and the second set of wheels did not properly deploy, the head of the stretcher fell to the ground before the paramedic was able to get control of the situation.   That is, things happened essentially in the way described by the plaintiff.  I therefore reject the paramedic’s evidence as unreliable.

Exemption from liability?

The defendant relied on section 27 of the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld) as a defence to the plaintiff’s claim. That section relevantly provides:

(1) Civil liability does not attach to an entity, prescribed under a regulation, that provides services to enhance public safety in relation to an act done or omitted in the course of rendering first aid or other aid or assistance to a person in distress if –  

(a) The first aid or other aid or assistance is given by the entity while performing duties to enhance public safety; and

(b) The first aid or other aid or assistance is given in circumstances of emergency; and

(c) The act is done or omitted in good faith and without reckless disregard for the safety of the person in distress or someone else

The plaintiff argued that s 27(1) does not apply to the circumstances of this case. McGill SC DCJ reasoned as follows:

[44] The Civil Liability Regulation 2014, s 5 prescribes the entities mentioned in Schedule 2 as the entities prescribed for the purpose of s 27 of the Act. Schedule 2 lists a number of entities including “Queensland Ambulance Service established under the Ambulance Service Act 1991.” That Act provides for the establishment of the Queensland Ambulance Service, but does not expressly provide that that Service is a body corporate, or is capable of suing and being sued in its own name.

[45] … for the present proceeding, it is common ground on the pleadings that the relevant paramedic was employed by the defendant … The defendant is therefore vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee. The defendant is an entity properly sued under the Crown Proceedings Act 1980 … The defendant is not an entity listed in Schedule 2 to the Regulation. The short answer to the defence reliance on s 27 is that it does not apply to the liability of State of Queensland in the form of vicarious liability for its employee, the relevant paramedic, and therefore cannot provide a defence.

Quantum

His Honour assessed damages as follows, notably allowing Mr Hoey, Occupational Therapist’s assessment of care:

Head of Damage

 

Amount
General damages

 

$21,850.00
Special damages

 

$15,346.79
Interest on out-of-pocket special damages

 

$272.00
Past gratuitous care

 

$140,000.00
Future care

 

$348,200.00
Future treatment

 

$26,001.00
Future travel

 

$3,000.00
Future aids and equipment

 

$3,000.00
 

TOTAL COST

 

 

$557,669.79

David Cormack – Brisbane Barrister and Mediator

NB: appeal dismissed – State of Queensland v Roane-Spray [2017] QCA 245

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