$600k payout after skipper robbed of ‘sea legs’

AN ex-charter boat skipper who "lost his sea legs'' after being injured in a fall off his electric bike, while trying to dodge a reversing car, has been awarded almost $634,000 in damages.

A Supreme Court judge found Alan Zavodny was in no way responsible for the 2014 accident that left him unable to pursue his lifelong passion for working on game fishing boats.

The Supreme Court heard it was admitted that the accident was caused by the negligence of Kevin Couper, who suddenly backed his Holden Colorado out of a Townsville street parking bay.

Mr Zavodny, then 59, who had been about to pull into a nearby parking bay, swerved to avoid a collision, the bike jackknifed and he fell onto the bitumen, the court heard.

After he sued over the accident, it was claimed he was responsible for contributory negligence.

But Justice Henry found Mr Zavodny was keeping a proper lookout and travelling at a reasonable speed and distance and he did not fail to take reasonable care.

Mr Zavodny suffered a deep left ankle wound and fracture and subsequent infections that caused him ongoing problems, preventing him from working as a game fishing boat master.

He also suffered a shoulder injury and an adjustment disorder.

Mr Zavodny told the Cairns court his ankle injury deprived him of good balance - the sea legs he needed to effectively move and climb about a boat's decks, steps and ladders.

"There is no sensation in the bottom of my foot. I don't know when I hit the ground. Standing at the fly bridge, there is a fair bit of speed … it is unstable,'' he told the court.

Mr Zavodny told of several unsuccessful attempts to work as a skipper or vessel master since the accident.

"His ankle injury makes it more difficult to bear heavy loads about vessels,'' Justice Jim Henry said in his judgment.

"It also makes it very difficult to climb up and down ladders and perform tasks standing in elevated locations, such as flybridges and marlin towers.

"The injury also impairs his capacity to effectively operate the boat when at the wheel, in particular when having to stand up to perform the task, often in rough water.''

Justice Henry said it was difficult to conceive of any realistic form of seafaring work for which Mr Zavodny would be physically competent.

"Mr Zavodny evidently derived great pleasure and satisfaction from successfully pursuing his lifelong employment dream as a vessel master,'' Justice Henry said.

He said Mr Zavody, 65, would have worked in full-time, contract or part-time work until he was 75, was permanently unfit for paid seafaring work as a master or crew member on vessels.

On Friday, Justice Henry ordered QBE Insurance pay Mr Zavodny, a former Townsville Bulletin fishing columnist, $633,987 in damages.


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