Fraser Coast Regional Council was involved in a civil trial with former council worker Clinton Johnson before the District Court of Queensland in Brisbane.
Fraser Coast Regional Council was involved in a civil trial with former council worker Clinton Johnson before the District Court of Queensland in Brisbane.

Secret videos did not save council from $350k damages payout

A COUNCIL worker who was secretly filmed after injuring himself at work has been awarded almost $350,000 in compensation.

The Fraser Coast Regional Council's insurance company recorded more than 85 hours of footage of labourer Clinton Johnson after he twisted his knee covering a load of asphalt with a tarpaulin.

But Judge Vicki Loury, who presided over a civil trial in Brisbane District Court in August, said while the footage suggested the knee injury impact was not "as great" as Mr Johnson had described, it did show him with a limp and using a counter for support.

At times he used a knee brace and a walking stick.

"There is nothing in the surveillance footage that alters my conclusion that the plaintiff is an honest and sincere witness who has done his best to tell the truth as he remembers it," she said in a judgment.

The court heard Mr Johnson, 49, had been in labouring jobs for all of his working life until he suffered a knee injury in September, 2014 while working for the council.

He had not worked since.

Mr Johnson was terminated from his position in December 2015 as he could no longer undertake the manual components of his job.

Mr Johnson testified the injury to his leg happened on a day he was he was carting asphalt to Ariadne Street, Maryborough.

"He stood on the tow-hitch and pulled the tarpaulin over the asphalt making sure that it was tied off correctly," Judge Loury said.

"He then stepped down off the tow-hitch onto his right leg.

"As he turned, his knee twisted and he fell to the ground.

"He suffered pain in his right knee however he nonetheless continued working.

"He took some time to compose himself and then drove the load of asphalt to the job site at Ariadne Street.

"He described his knee as having pain shooting through it as he drove to the site."

Council legal representatives argued Mr Johnson fabricated the circumstances of the incident to fraudulently obtain the benefit of workers' compensation statutory benefits, initially for medical expenses and weekly benefits upon his inability to work and ultimately in a claim for common law damages.

While the court found Mr Johnson made errors in completing an incident report and exaggerated the extent of his injury, he was found to be an honest and believable witness.

The court found, on the balance of probabilities, the council's negligence caused or materially contributed to Mr Johnson's injury.

The council must pay $349,548.07 to Mr Johnson for damages, medical expenses, superannuation and economic loss.

"Had (Mr Johnson) been provided a step-ladder, I am of the view that his injury from stepping down from the unstable tow-hitch to the ground and twisting his knee would have been prevented or his risk of injury, minimised," Judge Loury said.

"Had (Mr Johnson) been operating a truck with a mechanical system in place, his injury would have been prevented."


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