Employee’s damages claim for assault dismissed

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Employee’s damages claim for assault dismissed

A plant operator’s claim of assault by the employer has been dismissed. He had lied about his drug use, and the court could not accept his version of events.

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A plant operator’s claim of assault by the employer has been dismissed. He had lied about his drug use, and the court could not accept his version of events.
 
 
Altercation resulting in wrestling on the floor
 
A plant operator was employed by a small company that hired out a bobcat and operator. On 8 July 2008, he was sent to work at a building site where he encountered a mechanical problem with the bobcat. He believed the bobcat was under warranty and, so, without seeking instructions from his employer, loaded it onto his truck and took it to the distributor to be repaired.
 
When the plant operator got back to his employer, the company secretary admonished him for not seeking direction from her before taking the bobcat to be repaired. According to the plant operator, another employee, the company secretary’s son, then came into the office and told him to sit down and pushed him backwards. The plant operator retaliated and the two men ended up wrestling on the floor. He claimed the company secretary hit him with a golf club to try to separate them.
 
The plant operator claimed he had been assaulted and suffered injuries for which he sought damages. In addition to, or in the alternative, he claimed the incident had been caused by the employer’s negligence and/or breach of duty and/or breach of the Qld Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995.
 
Evidence
 
The evidence in the Supreme Court of Queensland included reports from two psychiatrists who had examined the plant operator. He had told both of them he had not used illicit drugs, but this proved to be untrue. He had told his general practitioner on more than one occasion of his drug use. When he lied to the psychiatrists, he had known that their reports were to be used for the purpose of litigation. The court did not accept his version of the events.
 
The evidence that the court accepted was that the plant operator had head-butted the company secretary’s son, split his lip and bitten him on the ear. It was the plant operator who had instigated the pushing that had landed both of the men on the floor. The photographic and medical evidence did not establish that the company secretary had hit the plant operator with a golf club, as he claimed. The court accepted that she had held a golf club but only threatened with it at some point. The injuries the employee had suffered, which included a right thumb injury, had been a consequence of his own actions.
 
In case of a future appeal, the court addressed the issue of damages. Potential damages were assessed at $61,757. The court then dismissed the plant operator’s claim.
 
 
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