Public Servant’s Sex Compo Claim Hopes Dashed!
A public servant who was injured while having sex in a motel room during a work trip is not eligible for compensation, the High Court has ruled.
The Federal Government employee, who cannot be named, was injured in 2007 when a light fitting was dislodged and fell on her as she was having sex with a man.
The incident took place in a motel room in a country town in New South Wales, where the woman, aged in her 30s, and another employee had travelled for work.
Her employer had booked her into the motel room.
The woman said the light hit her in the face, injuring her nose, mouth and a tooth and also causing a psychiatric adjustment disorder.
She was taken to hospital for treatment.
The Government’s workplace safety body, ComCare, initially accepted the claim, but it was later revoked and the decision was also upheld by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
In April 2012, the woman won an appeal against those decisions in the Federal Court. Her employer was also ordered to pay her court costs.
The judge, John Nicholas, said the appeals tribunal had erred in saying that the woman had to prove her injury had been caused by an activity that had been “implied” or “encouraged” by her employer.
Justice Nicholas said if the woman had been injured playing cards in her motel room she would get compensation, and that the incident was no different.
However, ComCare lodged an appeal against the Federal Court decision on four grounds, including that the court was wrong in finding the woman’s injuries were caused “in the course of her employment”.
Today, the High Court accepted ComCare’s case that is was not liable because the incident happened after hours.
Federal Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz hailed the High Court ruling in the “infamous sex case” as a victory for common sense.
“This decision protects the currency of work place safety which was in serious danger of being trivialised by this claim,” Senator Abetz said.
“This decision also means that the definition of ‘work-related injury’ is more clearly defined.
“It’s important in Australian workplaces that we have a form of ‘mutual obligation’ where employees and employers both work together and are prepared to accept personal responsibility.
“Instances such as this where an employee seeks to stretch the boundaries of entitlements are of great concern and the High Court’s intervention is welcome.”
During a hearing into the woman’s initial claim in 2011, her lawyer Leo Grey said that there was no suggestion she had engaged in any misconduct.
Mr Grey said her injury occurred during “an ordinary incident of life commonly undertaken in a motel room at night”.
In a statement, the man involved in the act said: “I do not know if we bump the light or it just fell off.”
“I think she was on her back when it happened but I was not paying attention because we were rolling around,” he said.