Barnes v New Zealand Holdings Pty Ltd [ 2011] WADC
208. Decision of District Court Judge Davis on 24
The Defendant was carrying on the business of installing a fire
system at the Forrest Chase Centre, Forrest Place, Perth. Part of
the Defendant's work involved running cabling through the
ceiling area of Myer at Forrest Place from and to retail outlets
next to Myer, to connect the retail outlets to the fire system. At
8.30am on 25 March 2008, an apprentice electrician of the Defendant
began cabling work in a chemist next to Myer. The work he did was
captured on CCTV footage as he was working from a ladder close to a
set of glass automatic sliding doors. He placed 3 orange coloured
cones around the feet of the ladder, and these protruded into the
door space of the automatic doors.
At 8.37am, the Plaintiff receptionist employed by Myer, arrived
for work. As she was walking through the automatic doors to the
right of the cones, she was struck on the head by one of two
ceiling panels which had fallen from the ceiling above her. Due to
her injuries, she had time off work, and received workers'
compensation payments from Myer. She brought a common law damages
claim against the Defendant alleging the accident occurred as a
result of the Defendant's alleged negligence.
In accordance with s.5B(1) of Civil Liability Act 2002 (WA)
Judge Davis found:
There was a foreseeable risk that persons walking in the
vicinity of the work carried out by the Defendant might be injured
by a falling ceiling panel;
It was a risk of which the Defendant ought to have known;
The risk of harm was not insignificant; and
In the circumstances, a reasonable person in the
Defendant's position would have:
Carried out an inspection before commencing work;
Removed the ceiling panels before commencing work; and
Closed off the area adequately – arranged to have the
particular set of automatic doors where the Defendant's
apprentice electrician was working, locked, and another set of
In accordance with s5B(2) of Civil Liability Act 2002 (WA), her
Honour found that it was probable that the harm would occur if
precautions were not taken, there was a likelihood of serious harm
if any of the ceiling panels fell, given their size and weight, and
the precautions would not have involved any unreasonable
expenditure or burden for the Defendant.
The Defendant was found liable for breaching its duty of care to
Mrs Barnes and was ordered to pay damages in the sum of
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