The recent Court of Appeal decision of Farnham v Prudence
& Anor  QCA 18 has some 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. At the
time of the incident, Ms Farnham was travelling from her home to
the home of a client. Ms Farnham worked 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. The Court of Appeal held it
Central to the issue were the deeming provisions in the CLA and
WCRA. In particular, section 5(1)(b) of the CLA which 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
Section 35 of the WCRA, which relates to journey claims,
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'.
In the event Ms Farnham's claim fell within section 35 of
the WCRA and was a journey claim, the CLA would apply.
However, rather than delving into complex considerations of
occupation, control, work and non-work tasks and work hours, 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 though the worker does some
The Court also 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
'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. In
particular, 'The requirement of section 32 of the WCRA,
that the employment significantly contribute to the injury,
requires that the exigencies of the employment must contribute in
some significant way to the occurrence of the injury caused by the
breach of duty of the person (not the employer) against whom the
claim is made'.
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. As the
WCRA did not apply, the CLA did.
This case is important in our modern era of flexible work
arrangements. As noted by President McMurdo in the decision
'One benefit of modern technology is that employees
commonly work remotely from their places of employment, often from
their homes. This decision and another recent decision of Ballandis
v Swebbs & Anor, 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
cannot claim common law damages. They are instead subject to the
more limited scheme of damages applicable under the Civil Liability
Act 2003 (Qld)'.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
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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