In the recent case of Pratt v Return to Work SA, the
South Australian Employment Tribunal had to determine whether
injuries sustained by a casual farm labourer were compensable.
Mr Pratt had been socialising with his supervisor at the
employer's farmhouse after a shift – enjoying a meal,
playing pool and drinking a number of alcoholic beverages.
Tragically, Mr Pratt suffered a severe brain injury after he
pierced his eye and brain when he accidentally head-butted a pool
The circumstances were unique. As Mr Hansen 'broke' to
start another game, the white ball became airborne and flew off the
table, careering towards a window. Mr Pratt instinctively reached
out to grab the flying ball and somehow forcibly head-butted his
own perpendicular cue.
At the hearing, Mr Pratt argued he 'couldn't say no'
to his employer's invitation. However, the Tribunal found there
was no evidence of any direction or requirement to attend and
rejected Mr Pratt's argument that he was 'required to
More importantly, the Tribunal also found the activity was not
part of Mr Pratt's employment because it was purely social,
there was no plan to discuss work issues and there were no
'work elements' in the invitation. The Tribunal warned that
finding otherwise would 'set the bar of what is part of an
individual's employment so unreasonably low that most after
work socialising with a superior would be captured'.
Interestingly, the Tribunal rejected the employer's argument
that Mr Pratt's injury was caused by wilful misconduct by
virtue of his intoxication. It held that the employer's policy
prohibited working under the influence of drugs or alcohol but
permitted responsible drinking at social functions. It also held
there was insufficient evidence to find Mr Pratt's injuries
were 'wholly or predominantly attributable' to his
On the whole, an incredibly unfortunate event, but an
unsurprising decision which follows established law.
For anyone wanting to read the decision, it can be found here.
Cooper Grace Ward is a leading Australian law firm based in
This publication is for information only and is not legal
advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your
circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If
there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising
from this publication, please contact Cooper Grace Ward
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An employer's duty is very high and can include engaging experts to inspect things such as stairways for latent defects.
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