Woman injured by accident while on ambulance stretcher

The case of Moyra Bridgette Roane-Spray (the plaintiff) (Roane-Spray v State of Queensland [2016] QDC 348) began when an ambulance was called and attended her residence on Lamb Island in Moreton Bay, Queensland. The plaintiff was 66 years of age at the time. While being transported by the ambulance on a stretcher, the plaintiff claims that one end of the stretcher collapsed resulting in personal injuries. It was submitted that the plaintiff suffered a moderate cervical spine injury, a moderate thoracic or lumbar spine injury and a moderate mental disorder. There were conflicting versions of exactly what happened, and the trial judge accepted the plaintiff’s version that the plaintiff was on the stretcher while it was being withdrawn from the ambulance vehicle, that it was withdrawn quickly, and that one end collapsed to the ground while the plaintiff was on the stretcher. The trial judge awarded damages of $557,669.79 (which included $272.00 interest).

General damages - $21,850.00
Special damages - $15,346.79
Past gratuitous care - $140,000.00
Future care - $348,200.00
Future treatment - $26,001.00
Future travel - $3,000.00
Future aids and equipment - $3,000.00

General damages might otherwise be described as pain and suffering. Generally, for a compensation claim, this will represent quite a small portion of the claim. An ISV (Injury Scale Value) is used to calculate general damages. Judges must work within the parameters of this scale when awarding general damages.

Special damages includes such things as past out of pocket expenses.

Past gratuitous care in this case was for assistance for the plaintiff with such things as showering, dressing, cooking, housekeeping, laundry and gardening. Expert evidence was relied on to determine the number of hours per week of this type of care and those hours were used to ultimately derive a dollar figure. The figure was discounted somewhat on the basis that the plaintiff may have required some care in any event if the accident had not happened.

Future care represents the lion’s share of the damages awarded, and is an estimate of the costs of future care based on life expectation, and taking into account factors such as the prospect of the plaintiff requiring future care for reasons other than the accident.

Future treatment refers to the costs of future medical treatments.

Future travel is for future costs of travelling to medical treatments.

Future aids and equipment are for costs for items such as non slip flooring for the bathroom, shower chair, etc.

A significant absence from the awarded damages is economic loss. A person who is generating income at the time of an injury may be awarded damages for future loss of income.

An interesting twist to this case is that the Queensland Government appealed the decision (State of Queensland v Roane-Spray [2017] QCA 245), seeking to avoid liability under sections of the Civil Liability Act 2003 which protect certain entities including the Queensland Ambulance Service from liability. It was found however that because of technical reasons regarding the legal status of the Queensland Ambulance Service that the service provider was actually the State of Queensland which is not an entity which is protected by the Civil Liability Act 2003 at least in respect of vicarious liability for QAS employees.

Elspeth Ledwy is available to assist with any matters concerning personal injuries. 

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