Wagga Council has prevailed in a lawsuit seeking more than $263,000 in compensation after a woman was injured by an automatic door at the city's airport.
The plaintiff in the case was a woman from Coffs Harbour, aged 44 at the time of the incident, who told the court she suffered neck, back and sciatic pain as well as tendonitis in her left shoulder as a result of her arm getting hit by the door.
The woman claimed in the NSW District Court that Wagga council, as the airport's operator, had breached its duty of care by not promptly replacing a faulty sensor in the automatic door, which allowed it to "slam" closed on her.
Her potential damages had been assessed at $263,299.53 including medical and living assistance costs as well as loss of income from being able to carryout one of her jobs that required being able to stand for long periods of time.
Judge Margaret Sidis ruled last week that the woman's legal team had "not fulfilled the onus of establishing that the [Wagga council] was in breach of its duty of care to her in a manner that was causative of her injury".
Judge Sidis found that the woman's pre-existing spinal condition was made worse by the airport incident but did not find that the council's failure to replace one of two sets of safety sensors had caused the incident.
The woman flew to Wagga in September 2017 with her mother and her aunt to attend a family funeral.
The woman was assisting her aunt, who had mobility issues, through the arrival area of Wagga airport and told the court that she did not notice the door.
"As she entered the area autolock door she felt a jarring sensation on the upper part of her left arm," Judge Sidis stated in her judgement.
"The plaintiff said she initially thought that someone had pushed her until she turned and noticed a door."
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The woman was unable to find anyone at the airport to whom the incident could be reported and told the airport's compliance team leader what had happened when departing Wagga on another flight a few days later.
The council's solicitors suggested that the woman had "exaggerated the extent to which the closing autolock door impacted her" and took issue with her use of the word "slammed" when describing its force.
Judge Sidis stated she "did not agree that there was exaggeration on the part of the plaintiff".
"The CCTV footage demonstrated that the autolock door opened and closed swiftly in order to fulfill the purpose described in the incident report: 'it is a security door designed to stop unauthorised access airside'" her honour stated.
Judge Sidis found that Wagga airport staff gave "unsatisfactory" evidence for why they had failed to replace one set of photoelectric sensors placed six centimetres above the floor that were designed to prevent the door from closing on a person.
The airport's manager at the time and the compliance team leader "both claimed not to have seen the service reports and quotations" from a door service agent that first found the sensor fault in June 2016 and had continued report the issue after multiple subsequent inspections.
The service agent provided the airport a quote of $395.34 to replace the sensors in July 2017, more than two months before the woman was injured.
"Neither witness could point to any particular person employed by the defendant who might have been responsible for taking action to remedy the defect," Judge Sidis stated.
"They were therefore not in a position to explain why [the council] considered it unnecessary, until this incident occurred, to take action to replace the [sensors]."
Despite these issues, Judge Sidis found that the council "appropriately managed what appeared to be an insignificant risk through a regular and comprehensive maintenance routine ... and daily checks to confirm the continued functioning of the autolock door and its safety features".
Both parties in the lawsuit have until next week to make applications for how much of the council's legal costs should be paid by the plaintiff.
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