The recent Court of Appeal decision of Farnham v
Prudence & Anor  QCA 18 has parallels with the
classic Australian movie, The Castle, in so far as both centre
around the tale of a home and, to quote Darryl Kerrigan, both
involved wins for ' the law of common sense
Importantly, in Farnham the Court of Appeal had to consider the
interaction of the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld)
('CLA') and the Workers' Compensation &
Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) ('WCRA') to determine if
an injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident on Ms Farnham's
journey from her home, where she worked, to a client's house
invoked the operation of the WCRA and thereby avoided restrictions
to damages applicable under the CLA.
Ms Farnham was employed as a community visitor for the
Commission for Children, Young People and Child Guardian. She
sustained injury in a motor vehicle accident on 21 May 2012 when
travelling from her home to the home of a client. In working from
home she provided her own computer and car and created her own
schedule but was reimbursed a travel allowance and stationary.
Liability was admitted. The central issue for the District Court
and then the Court of Appeal was the calculation of quantum and
whether the CLA applied to the claim, effectively limiting the
damages Ms Farnham could obtain. Section 5(1)(b) of the CLA states
that the CLA will not apply to an injury for which compensation is
payable under the WCRA. Accordingly, the Court was required to look
at whether Ms Farnham's injury was one that was covered by the
WCRA. Two provisions were central.
Firstly, section 35 of the WCRA, which relates to journey
claims. It states:
An injury to a worker is also taken to arise out of, or in
the course of, the worker's employment if the event happens
while the worker –
is on a journey between the worker's home and place of
' Place of employment ' is defined as '
premises...or place for the time being occupied by, or under the
control of management of, the employer by whom a worker concerned
is employed... '. ' Home ' is defined as ' the
worker's usual place of residence '.
The Court of Appeal decided the matter with reference to the
plain and distinct meanings of 'home' and 'place of
employment' under the WCRA. The Court said ' the mere
fact that a worker does some work at home does not mean that it
loses its character as the worker's home . The usual place of
residence remains exactly that even thought the worker does some
work there '.
Secondly, the Court considered the application of section 32 of
the WCRA and if Ms Farnham had sustained an ' injury
' within the meaning of the act. Section 32(1)(a) of the WCRA
defines injury as:
'Personal injury arising out
of, or in the course of employment if... the employment is a
significant contributing factor' .
On this point, the Court of Appeal noted the case of
Newberry v Suncorp Metway Insurance Limited  QCA 48
which held that for employment to be a significant contributing
factor to the injury the connection to employment must be
significant and beyond that owed by one road user to another.
The Court of Appeal held Ms Farnham's employment was not a
significant contributing factor and accordingly, she did not meet
the definition of ' injury ' under the WCRA, so
instead the CLA applied.
President McMurdo concluded ' One benefit of modern
technology is that employees commonly work remotely from their
places of employment, often from their homes. This decision . . .
means that workers who have commenced their employment by working
at home and who are then injured in a motor vehicle accident whilst
driving to another part of their workplace . . . are instead
subject to the more limited scheme of damages applicable under the
Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld) '.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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