Claim for back injury by meat worker fails - Court finds evidence extremely unreliable
In the case of Tyrone Lewis v Green Mountain Food Processing Pty Ltd (2014) QDC 149, the Plaintiff, Mr Lewis, claimed he sustained a seriously debilitating back injury in the course of his work as a meat worker with the Defendant, who operated a meat processing factory.
Mr Lewis alleged that he sustained his back injury as a result of repeatedly lifting heavy bags of frozen meat which, due to the workplace set up, he had to also handle awkwardly when required to empty the parcels of meat into a dicer for processing.
Inconsistency in evidence as to how injury occurred
At trial, Mr Lewis gave evidence to the Court that he sustained his back injury during a work shift at the Defendant's factory, during which he was required to lift 60 bags of frozen meat weighing around 12.5kg each from floor to shoulder height, whilst twisting at a 270 degree angle, to load the meat into a dicing machine. However, in response to such testimony, the Defendant produced evidence of production records indicating that the Plaintiff was only required to lift 15 bags of frozen meat to unload them into the dicing machine during the work shift in question.
Mr Lewis also gave testimony during the trial that he left his work shift early because of his injury so that he could obtain medical treatment. However, the Defendant produced evidence from its sick leave records and the Plaintiff's General Practitioner indicating that the Plaintiff did not leave work early as claimed, and he did not attend upon his General Practitioner for treatment until at least 2 hours after completion of his normal work shift.
Inconsistency as to extent of injury
The Judge noted in his decision that, when giving evidence in Court, the Plaintiff presented as being extremely debilitated, and this was also the presentation reported by medical experts who assessed the Plaintiff during his claim. Those medical experts also gave evidence at trial confirming that the Plaintiff had reported significant symptomatology from his back injury, and significant debilitation, including an inability to return to work because of his injury, in the course of their reviews.
In response to the Plaintiff's claims of significant injury, the Defendant provided evidence to the Court of the Plaintiff having undertaken quite physically exertive work, inconsistent with his reporting of significant injury to medical experts and the Court, during the period the Plaintiff claimed he was unable to work due to his injury.
After hearing the evidence, His Honour Judge Reid considered he had some “serious disquiet about the Plaintiff’s credit” and the Plaintiff's description of the incident and injury. Judge Reid also found that the work the Plaintiff had been undertaking since his alleged injury, as well as his hours of work, were inconsistent with his claimed serious lumbar disc injury, and the Plaintiff's exaggeration of his injuries and symptoms was to the extent where he found the Plaintiff's evidence “extremely unreliable”.
Plaintiff fails to prove case and is ordered to pay costs of the Defendant
His Honour, as a consequence, found that he could not accept that the serious ongoing symptomatology of which the Plaintiff complained, was the result of any back injury sustained in his work at the Defendant’s meat processing plant.
The Plaintiff’s claim was dismissed, and His Honour ordered that the Plaintiff pay the costs of the Defendant.
Accuracy is needed when reporting the extent of injury, symptomatology and resulting incapacity
The case of Lewis v Green Mountain Food Processing Pty Ltd is a good example of how a Plaintiff exaggerating his injuries can not only impact upon the credibility of his evidence in relation to the extent of his injuries and their impact upon his pre-injury lifestyle and employment, but also upon the reliability of his evidence as to how the incident of injury occurred.
It also demonstrates how important it is for a Plaintiff to be careful as to the manner in which they provide information to doctors, the insurer and to the Court in relation to the extent of their injuries and their impact, as well as the circumstances of how their injury occurred. It is very important for a Plaintiff to be accurate in the description of their injuries, ongoing symptomatology and the impact of same upon pre-injury lifestyle and employment, as well as the accident circumstances.
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