Working in the field, one could be forgiven for thinking that
personal injury claims always succeed, but a 2010 decision from the
Queensland Supreme Court is an interesting example of how careful
management of public areas, and good evidence, can result in a
finding in favour of a defendant.
Mr Omar Sultan (the plaintiff), a trainee marine surveyor,
attended on board the MV "Cleopatra Dream", along with
another surveyor. Mr Sultan allegedly slipped and fell on deck,
injuring his right hip, buttock area and his left knee.
Mr Sultan made a claim against his employer and also the owners
of the vessel for in excess of $600,000. The claim against the
employer settled prior to trial, but the allegations were defended
by the vessel owner.
Mr Sultan alleged that he fell as a result of a walkway being
wet and oily but he was found by the court to have given a number
of inconsistent versions of how the injury had occurred. These were
further contradicted by the evidence of the other surveyor and the
vessel's Chief Officer, neither of whom noticed any oil
In his evidence, the Chief Officer stated he conducted a daily
inspection of the ship and that the crew would not allow any oil
leak to go unattended, particularly in port where the crew is very
conscious of its environmental obligations. However even if oil was
present on the deck, further precautions were taken, such as the
use of non-slip paint on the deck and treating walkways with sand
to add additional resistance.
The Chief Officer's evidence was further supported by a
statement from the Master regarding the safety precautions taken
concerning walkways. The court found that even if Mr Sultan did
fall, it was not due to the negligence of the vessel owner. Mr
Sultan had not proved that the state of the area where he slipped
This case ultimately had a good outcome for the vessel owners
but it is a reminder that all incidents should be investigated when
they occur, as a relatively small investment at that stage can help
to avoid serious adverse consequences.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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