A recent award of $12 million dollars in damages against a Tasmanian farming couple is a serious reminder of the need for on farm safety.
British woman Holly Raper was left severely injured after a quad bike accident occurred on the farm where she had been working for just a few weeks.
She was left in a minimally conscious state.
Her lawyer said, “She cannot communicate, she cannot move, she cannot feed herself – she needs, and this judgement reflects it, 24-hour care by two carers at all times.”
Her family was seeking $40 million from the farm’s owners to cover the cost of her life-long care. It was reduced by the Court because of the severely reduced life expectancy she now has.
Farm owners found solely negligent
Often in personal injury cases the Court will find some sharing of responsibility for an accident but in this case no negligence was attributed to Ms Raper.
Evidence in the case showed:
- Ms Raper had not been properly trained in using the quad bike
- Ms Raper had not been provided with a helmet
- The quad bike had significant defects including disconnected rear brakes, excessive steering wear and rear wheel that had not been properly attached
Ms Raper’s inexperience in the farming environment and with quad bikes (she was on a working holiday from the UK and had only recently started working at the farm) did not reduce the farm owner’s responsibility for the accident occurring.
The farm’s owners have since sold the property and while some decisions as to costs in conducting the matter are still to be concluded it appears that their insurance company will cover the damages payout.
Lessons for farming enterprises
This case is a startling example of how easily something can go wrong in a farming enterprise.
Key lessons to consider include:
- Ensuring even relatively small machinery such as quad bikes are not operated by people without the training and knowledge to do so safely
- Ensure reasonable safety equipment is available for each item of machinery. A simple motorcycle helmet may have completely changed the outcome of this tragic event
- Maintenance of all farming equipment is critical and mandatory when someone other than you is using it
- Up to date, comprehensive insurance coverage should be considered an essential part of any farming operation
If you have questions about this case or risk protection issues for your farm or business please contact Fox and Thomas for advice relevant to your particular situation.