Did this court, er, screw up?
posted at 9:15 am on December 17, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
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.