Smith v Body Corporate for Professional Suites Community
Title Scheme 14487  QCA 80
The Queensland Court of Appeal has rejected a claim of
negligence against a body corporate for injuries sustained by a
woman who fell through glass in the foyer of a building.
The glass panel complied with the relevant Australian standards
in place at the time of the original construction of the building
in 1971. Later standards only permitted the installation of safety
glass, and provided that if existing glass was replaced for any
reason then the replacement glass should comply with the current
During renovations in 2000 and 2001, some glass in the building
was replaced with safety glass. The glass panel through which Ms
Smith fell was not replaced during the renovations. The
architect's plans for the renovations did not alert the body
corporate to the relevant Australian standards applicable to
Ms Smith claimed that her injuries were caused by the negligence
of the body corporate. The central issues about liability were
whether the body corporate breached its duty of care by failing to
arrange an audit of the glass doors and walls to ascertain whether
they complied with the prevailing Australian standards, and what
the audit recommendations would have been.
Ms Smith failed to prove that the body corporate acted
unreasonably by failing to organise an audit of the glass and then
replace the existing glass with safety glass. The Court took into
the extraordinarily large number of people who uneventfully
entered and exited the building over 30 years;
the absence of any evidence that the body corporate knew or
should have known that the glass had a propensity to break into
dangerous shards when sufficient force was applied to it; and
the potentially enormous cost of investigating and removing
equally unlikely risks associated with other glass or materials
throughout the common areas of the building.
The appeal court ordered Ms Smith to pay the body
corporate's costs of the appeal, in addition to the trial
judge's order for Ms Smith to pay the body corporate's
costs of the trial.
The case illustrates that failure to bring a building up to date
with Australian standards over time can be unpersuasive or
completely irrelevant in a plaintiff's personal injuries
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