Barker v The Corporation of the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane 
Rinaudo DCJ - Brisbane District Court
Delivered on 22 May 2020
The Plaintiff was a librarian who injured her back when upturning a book return box to retrieve a book that had slipped under the base.
The Plaintiff’s case was that she was not instructed that this task should be performed by two people and although she did often perform this task with another person, there was no policy to that effect and no assessment of the risk undertaken. In circumstances where she injured herself performing the task alone, she was successful in establishing liability against her employer.
Although the Plaintiff had been a librarian for many years, she claimed that she would have found a position as an Executive Assistant earning significantly more money, but for her injury and the ongoing pain and fatigue. Of note she had continued in her job as a librarian with very little time off.
The Judge accepted the Plaintiff’s case and awarded her damages in the sum of $471,194.21 of which approximately one half was in respect of the lost opportunity to earn that increased income.
This case illustrates the onerous duty of care on employers with respect to training in manual handling. It also illustrates that a court’s assessment of future economic loss will often depend on it’s view of the Plaintiff’s credit and acceptance of their evidence, and their medical experts.