Property Managers Take Note

Drew Lauchland

2 Jul, 2014

In a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal [1] a decision of the District Court of Queensland was upheld holding the owners of property liable for the ultimate death of a tradesman they had employed to undertake work at the property.

The case centered around a claim by the widow of the tradesman for loss of dependency as a result of the death of her husband from injuries sustained when he fell down a drainpipe on residential land at Indooroopilly.  The widow was awarded $445,000 damages in the first instance and this award was upheld on appeal.

The original decision of the District Court was based upon a finding that the owners of the property were negligent in failing to warn the tradesman about the existence of the drainpipe on the property.

As a result of the injuries suffered by the tradesman, he ultimately died.

Briefly the facts of the case were that the deceased tradesman had been employed by the owners of the property to undertake general gardening and lawn mowing services on their behalf. The incident the subject of the claim occurred while the deceased tradesman was trimming shrubbery in an area located behind a pool and adjacent to the rear boundary of the property. The tradesman whilst undertaking this task stepped onto an area where there was a drainage pipe over two metres deep which was covered by a metal lid which contained a metal grate. As he did so, the grate gave way and he fell two metres into the drainage pipe. From the evidence it appears that the steel grate had rusted over time. From the evidence it also appears that the area in question was overgrown with foliage and dead leaves.

As a result of the injuries suffered by the tradesman, he ultimately died. However, before he died, he had given instructions to his solicitors about the incident. He had advised his solicitors that he had not been told by the owners of the property about the existence of the drainage pipe or the metal grate.

The owners of the property purchased the property in 2007. When they purchased the property, they were made aware that there was a drainage easement running along the back of the property adjacent to the pool.

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