Green Room

Did this court, er, screw up?

posted at 9:15 am on December 17, 2012 by

From the Justice Isn’t Just Blind, She’s Brain Dead Department, Australian division comes this case of screwed-up worker compensation.  While on a business trip, a government employee got injured in a motel when a lighting fixture fell on her and her new friend in the throes of passion.  Guess who gets to pay for her disability?

An Australian woman who was injured while having sex on an overnight work trip has won the right to compensation after a court dismissed her employer’s argument that her injuries had not been sustained as part of her job.

The woman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, was hurt when a glass light fitting fell on her during sex in a motel on an overnight trip five years ago. She was treated in hospital for injuries to her nose and face and later suffered depression and was unable to continue in her job. She filed a case for compensation against her employer, a federal government agency, for her physical and psychological injuries.

On the night in question in 2007, the woman was staying at a motel in the country town of Nowra, 100 miles south of Sydney. She had dinner with a man and then invited him back to her room where they had sex, during which a light fitting above the bed fell on her.

In a statement, heard by a court in 2011, the man said he wasn’t sure how the light fell: “I think she was on her back when it happened but I was not paying attention because we were rolling around,” he said.

His statement added that they had been “going hard” and he wasn’t sure if they had bumped the light or if it had just fallen off.

The court ruled that the woman could have been playing cards, and that her activity was immaterial.  In that, I agree.  However, the judge then ruled that the woman was on the job and taxpayers were on the hook because she was traveling on government business.  Here’s a question: why wouldn’t the liability fall entirely on the motel? The woman wasn’t staying at a government-owned motel, after all, so it’s a little difficult to see why taxpayers should have to indemnify the woman for risk at a facility in which they have no control over the risk in the first place.

I imagine that this will have a chilling effect in Australia on business travel.  After all, this precedent — if upheld — would apply to the private sector as well.  The travel industry down under had better start praying for a reversal.

Recently in the Green Room:

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

They must have been “going at it hard” to shake a lighting fixture loose.

kemojr on December 17, 2012 at 9:29 AM

One must remember that, for all intents and purposes, Australia is now a communist country. Federal workers are a special class, being allowed to milk the system at will.

OldEnglish on December 17, 2012 at 9:32 AM

One must remember that, for all intents and purposes, Australia is now a communist country. Federal workers are a special class, being allowed to milk the system at will.

OldEnglish on December 17, 2012 at 9:32 AM

I spoke with a friend from Australia I’d made on LiveLeak. He paints a gloomy picture there for the Urban areas. I told him I’d planned a trip to Australia and New Zealand for Mrs Hawkdriver (not her real name) and myself. He wrote back to either skip Australia all together and just go to NZ or just stay away from the cities like Melbourne and Sydney.

hawkdriver on December 17, 2012 at 9:39 AM

hawkdriver on December 17, 2012 at 9:39 AM

He gave you good advice. Adelaide and Perth are fine, along with the Northern Territory, but the east coast is best forgotten.

OldEnglish on December 17, 2012 at 9:47 AM

Just remember, Hank “is Guam going to tip over” Johnson was a judge for 10 years. Stupidity exists throughout the world.

rbj on December 17, 2012 at 9:56 AM

If having sex was her “job,” then wouldn’t the guy who was paying her be responsible for her worker’s comp?

logis on December 17, 2012 at 9:59 AM

She was treated in hospital for injuries to her nose and face and later suffered depression and was unable to continue in her job.

Huh, severe embarrassment is covered by worker’s comp? Has Jesse Jackson, Jr. weighed in on this decision?

Fallon on December 17, 2012 at 10:11 AM

If having sex was her “job,” then wouldn’t the guy who was paying her be responsible for her worker’s comp?

logis on December 17, 2012 at 9:59 AM

she’s a prostitute. FIFY

D-fusit on December 17, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Ed, nobody brings the snark in their headlines like you do. Well, ‘cept for AP.

D-fusit on December 17, 2012 at 10:29 AM

He wrote back to either skip Australia all together and just go to NZ or just stay away from the cities like Melbourne and Sydney.

hawkdriver on December 17, 2012 at 9:39 AM

I left Australia 6 years ago after a happy 19 years there. There is (or at least was, and I’m sure it won’t have changed that much) some good stuff there. The beaches are amazing, Christmas through to the end of January in Sydney is great fun. Both Sydney and Melbourne benefit considerably from their mix of cultural influences: Western meets Mediterranean & Middle-Eastern meets Asian: you can eat some innovative and delicious food.

Small-town Australia is something that you really should get to experience, but you have to manage your expectations correctly: it’s simple and earthy. You won’t find white-tablecloth restaurants, luxury-goods outlets or “beautiful people”. You can see the “tourist attractions” as cheezy or you can see them from the perspective of Aussie self-deprecating humor; the latter is more fun. But don’t be afraid of the dingy-looking little pub. The food there might just be sensational. Think small-town Texas with a twist.

It saddens me that the same type of one-worlders who now hold sway here in the U.S. have taken over Australia. The once-”lucky” country can now be described by another adjective with the letters “u-c-k” in it. Study it if you want to see our future.

mr.blacksheep on December 17, 2012 at 10:47 AM

Sex on the job? So she was a prostitute and the guy was her client.

raz0r on December 17, 2012 at 11:18 AM

Here’s a question: why wouldn’t the liability fall entirely on the motel?

It probably should, but it would be a convoluted process. Just as if she had gotten in an auto wreck on her way to the conference, she would not have been in the circumstance except for her job. Doesn’t matter what she was doing. She could have been sleeping, lashed out with her hand and jarred the light fixture loose. If the hotel refuses to pay, she files with her employer, who then goes after the hotel for reimbursement.

Mitoch55 on December 17, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Here’s a question: why wouldn’t the liability fall entirely on the motel?

Inability to pay?

Lawyers always go after whoever has the resources to pay the damages.

The Rogue Tomato on December 17, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Lawyers always go after whoever has the resources to pay the damages.

The Rogue Tomato on December 17, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Slight correction: Lawyers always go after everyone, but especially those who have the resources to pay the damages.

nico on December 17, 2012 at 12:50 PM

I’m not familiar with Australian law, but we start from the same base in English Common Law. Under the basic principles of common law, if the work comp provider is liable to her, the agency assumes any claim she has against the hotel based on premises liability up to the amount they have to pay.

Maybe the hotel has empty pockets, and the agency doesn’t.

novaculus on December 17, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Flag on the play!!!

I was involved with workers compensation for years in New york State. Government emplyees while on official travel are considered to be on the job until they return to their home.

With regards to the hang gliding sneer above, yes, the same applies. In fact, under NYS law if a person is on duty, only the workers comp carrier is on the hook.

patch on December 17, 2012 at 1:11 PM

In fact, I actually agree with the court here, Ed.

The purpose of workers’ compensation is to make it easier on the employee. If a person is in a hotel on work-related business, and they get injured, then they do go to workers’ comp first. It’s up to workers’ comp to go after the hotel, or whoever else, to recover damages if they see fit. But the whole idea is that the employee doesn’t have to go sue the hotel or whomever else. They deal with workers’ comp and that’s it.

In this case, she was on business travel. The fact that she was having sex is irrelevant. She would not have been in that room were it not for her job. And she was not engaging in any unusually risky or irresponsible activity. Well, at least not from the workers’ compensation perspective. :) But a person would reasonably expect to be able to have sex in a hotel room and that not cause a light fixture to fall down.

So she did nothing legally wrong, she was there because of her job, she gets injured, she goes to worker’s comp. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.

Shump on December 17, 2012 at 2:02 PM

If the lamp had hit the guy, he’d be wearing that scar with a badge of pride.

TexasDan on December 17, 2012 at 2:05 PM

My business trips are seldom that much fun.

Okay, never.

Bob's Kid on December 17, 2012 at 2:26 PM