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Farnham V Pruden [2016] QCA 18

CrashBashFACTS

Farnham sustained injuries when the first respondent’s care collided with her own. She was awarded $47,389.75 plus costs. She instructed her solicitors to pursue an appeal. They mistakenly filed a notice of appeal rather than an application for leave to appeal. By the time the mistake was realised, the time to file an application for leave to appeal had lapsed.

The respondents had received notice of the intention to pursue an appeal, and suffered no prejudice as a result of the appellant’s error. The extension of time was granted.

The accident occurred whilst Farnham was driving from her home to the home of another as part of her casework for the Commission for Children, Young People and Child Guardian. Farnham was deemed to work from home, but frequently travelled to visit with the homes of others as part of her casework.

The accident caused soft-tissue damage to her spine, as well as adjustment disorder, with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.

Liability was not in issue. The only question was the quantum of damages to be awarded.

The trial judge did not award damages for future economic loss, nor the loss of the capacity to develop other careers.

LEGAL ISSUE

Is the appeal necessary to correct a substantial injustice?

Is there a reasonable argument that there is an error to be corrected?

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION

Because Ms Farnham worked from home, and carried out her casework at other places of residence, she was not considered to be travelling to her ‘place of employment’ for the purpose of the Worker’s Compensation Act.

The evidence available supported that Farnham had adjusted to life following the accident, and was recovering from the injuries – physical and mental – that she had sustained as a result of the accident.

The quantum calculated by the trial judge was informed by other factors that had adversely impacted on Farnham’s well-being during the same time period. These included the loss of a relative, the deterioration in her mother’s health, and the breakdown of her marriage. As these factors were extraneous to the collision which lead to the litigation, they were no included in the quantum of damages.

Because the expert evidence showed recovery on the part of Farnham to a level where she could again seek and find work, there was no loss in the form of future economic loss.

None of the grounds of appeal demonstrated an error on the part of the trial judge. Consequently, the application for leave was dismissed with costs.

TAKEAWAYS

Although serious injuries will often be the cause of ongoing problems for victims, the calculation of damages will reflect the extent to which difficulties suffered are attributable to the issue being litigated, and the extent to which there are extraneous causes.