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Case Note – Wilson v. Gold Coast Hospital & Health Service [2023] QSC 135 – 1.6 million damages award for injured nurse

On 23 June 2023, Justice Ryan of the Supreme Court of Queensland delivered judgment in favour of Trinet Wilson for the sum of $1,634,418.55 as against her employer due to injuries she sustained.

Ms Wilson was employed as a registered nurse at the Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast.  She was injured at work when attempting to restrain a patient with dementia and suffered an injury to her spine and secondary psychological/psychiatric injuries.

Justice Ryan’s 86-page judgment included findings that:-

  • Ms Wilson’s work involved a high proportion of patients on her ward as suffering from dementia or delirium which caused them to behave aggressively or to be combative to care
  • Ms Wilson was not trained in patient restraint
  • Ms Wilson was not instructed not to take part in patient restraint
  • A patient in Ms Wilson’s care with dementia required restrain to receive medication. A call was made for assistance and two security officers restrained the patient so medication could be delivered via injection to the thigh area
  • Ms Wilson was injured while trying to restrain the aggressive patient’s legs while also attempting to deliver the mediation
  • Ms Wilson’s employer breached the duty of care that was owed to her by failing to instruct her not to participate in restraining aggressive patients
  • Ms Wilson’s employer breached the duty of care that was owed to her by the failure of the two security officers to seek the assistance of a third security officer to assist with restraining the patient
  • Ms Wilson was an impressive, credible and reliable witness

Pain & Suffering

With respect to her claim for pain and suffering, Ms Wilson was awarded $25,150.

Past Economic Loss

Ms Wilson was awarded $473,548.16 with respect to her claim for past economic loss.

Future Economic Loss

Due to her injures, Ms Wilson was not able to continue work as a registered nurse.  The work-related injuries ended her career as a nurse.

Ms Wilson was seeking future economic loss on the basis of an ongoing loss of wages or income of between $1,209.75 to $2,190.19 net per week.

Justice Ryan discounted Ms Wilson’s claim for future economic loss by 50% on the basis that she might not have worked full-time with penalty shifts every year until she was aged 67 and due to Ms Wilson’s pre-existing spinal degeneration and pre-accident spinal surgery.

Ms Wilson was awarded $800,000.00 for future economic loss.

Expert Evidence

Expert evidence was commissioned by Ms Wilson and also by the defendant.

Ms Wilson called expert evidence from Dr Robert Labrom, Orthopaedic Surgeon assessed Ms Wilson’s whole person impairment with respect to her work-related back injury at 15%.

The defendant called expert evidence from Dr Gallie, Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Justice Ryan found that Dr Gaillie did not understand the way in which Ms Wilson was injured.

With respect to the secondary psychological/psychiatric injury, expert evidence was called from Dr Lockwood for Ms Wilson who assessed a 7% whole person impairment.   

Dr Chalk, Psychiatrist was called for the defendant who assessed a 6% whole person impairment.

Ms Nancy Stephenson, Occupational Therapist was called to give evidence by Ms Wilson regarding the reduction in Ms Wilson’s functional work capacity.  Ms Stephenson found that Ms Wilson hold only very limited capacity to return to work.  The defendant did not seek to challenge this conclusion.

Dr O’Toole, Occupational Physician was called to give evidence for the defendant.  Dr O’Toole gave evidence regarding when Ms Wilson was likely to experience problems due to her pre-existing spinal condition and when it was likely to have impacted upon her ability to work as a nurse and generally.  Dr O’Toole was cross-examined about this issue.

Greg is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading compensation law experts. Greg has a very healthy practice and enjoys providing his clients with superior personal service in every case. Greg is absolutely committed to achieving the best settlement outcomes for his clients while keeping the legal costs down.

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