A woman who sustained irreversible damage from a broken chair accident has been awarded compensation for her injuries.
In June 2002, Terry Anne Downie (now fifty-one years old) was employed as a team leader for the Community Information and Referral Service in the Australian Capital Territory. She purchased furniture for her office from an ex-government furniture outlet-Fyshwick-to decorate her office with. One of the items that she purchased was a chair to use at work.
In October later that year, Terry Anne was on the chair in her office when two legs of the chair snapped, causing Terry Anne to fall to the floor. A co-worker who witnessed the accident stated that she heard a loud crack, and then witnessed Terry Anne struggling to get up.
The woman was immediately transported to hospital, and scans were taken of her back. They revealed a building disc inflamed by the accident was in contact with a nerve root. Despite their best efforts, doctors were unable to fix the injury and Terry Anne suffers from ongoing pain, mental illness, sexual dysfunction and a permanent sensation that she said could be described as ants under the skin of her legs.
Terry Anne was awarded Au$190,000 in compensation for an injury caused by a broken chair at work in 2005. She also made a private claim for personal injury compensation against the chair’s importer-Jantom-claiming that the product was faulty when it was supplied to Fyshwick. Terry Anne’s employers also made a claim against Fantom to recover the amount of worker’s compensation that they had paid her as a result of her injury.
Judge Master David Harper heard the case at the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. He found in favour of Terry Anne and her employer after hearing expert evidence that the plastic moulding on the base of the chair had failed catastrophically, as two of the five supporting spokes snapped.
The judge said “Terry Anne has many years ahead of pain and depression. Her life is very different to the life she could have expected if it had not been for her injury. Her enjoyment of life, and the kind of life she is able to lead, have been altered immeasurably.”
Terry Anne was awarded $933,030 in compensation for her injury, and a further $112,000 in special damages to cover her medical expenses. Terry Anne’s employer was also awarded compensation for the money that they had paid to Terry Anne.