The decision handed down by the Supreme Court of
Queensland on 16 July 2009 in Etemovic v Gold Coast City
Council  QSC 185 deals with the obligations of surf
lifesavers in conducting rescue operations.
On 1 January 2005, the plaintiff, Ms Etemovic, was struck by a
jet ski that had been under the control of a lifeguard (under the
employ of the defendant council) at Currumbin Alley.
Although the plaintiff argued that she was swimming in a
"flagged" area when she was struck in the lower back by
the jet ski and knocked under the water, the Court accepted the
defendant's case that Currumbin Alley was, and never has been,
a "flagged area". The Court accepted that on the day of
the incident the Currumbin Alley was signed "Danger No
The defendant argued that although Currumbin Alley was not a
patrolled swimming beach, lifeguards were rostered to patrol the
beach because so many people swam there, despite the danger signs.
On the day of the incident the lifeguard entered the water on a jet
ski to pick up two boys on boogie boards who had been swept into
the channel. The boys were put onto the sled at the back of the jet
ski. The lifeguard then returned to the shore and turned the jet
ski around so that the boys could get off the back of the sled. The
jet ski was idling in the water when a wave hit it pushing it
towards a group of people and hitting Ms Etemovic. The Court
accepted this version of events.
The Court found that although Ms Etemovic originally argued that
the lifeguard was operating the jet ski in a flagged area (which
was not factually accurate), the allegations in her Statement of
Claim were broad enough to include an argument that the lifeguard
owed her a duty of care as the operator of the jet ski.
Justice Mullins found that the "scope of the duty owed by
the defendant to the plaintiff was affected by the fact that
Currumbin Alley at the time of the incident was signed as
'Danger No Swimming'". It is not unlikely in such
circumstances, that a jet ski may be used to patrol such
As the jet ski was stationary prior to the incident, there was
no negligence whatsoever on the part of the lifeguard. As such Ms
Etemovic's claim could not succeed.
Although in this case the lifeguard was not found to have been
negligent, the duty of care owed turned on the issue of whether
there was a "Danger No Swimming" sign on the beach. Had
this incident occurred between the red and yellow flags, a
different outcome may have resulted.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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