High Court dismisses
The High Court has rejected a compensation bid from a PS staffer injured in a “vigorous” sex session in a country motel six years ago.
PS sex injury claim
Fairfax reported the High Court ruled that the woman was not entitled to compensation from the workplace insurer Comcare because the circumstances of her injury were not related to her employment.
But after four years before the courts the case still divides legal opinion with two High Court judges disagreeing with the majority of their colleagues and arguing the woman should have been paid out.
The case sent shockwaves through the public sector and has implications for employers across Australia who send staff on work trips and for workers who travel as part of their jobs.
Lawyers for Comcare argued that the Federal bureaucrat should not get taxpayer-funded compensation as result of a "personal choice" to have sex while on the work trip.
But the woman's barrister argued the Australian Public Service, having sent the woman to a NSW country town, was liable for her welfare, even if she was injured while having sex.
The woman' name has been suppressed by the courts.
The bureaucrat suffered lacerations to her nose and mouth as well as "psychological injuries" when a glass light fitting was pulled from the wall of the motel room as she had sex with a local man in Nowra in November 2007.
Since 2009 the case has been through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Federal Court and now the High Court.
The case has been dubbed "scheme significant" by Comcare which is trying to stem a rising tide of compensation claims by public sector workers.
Comcare said the High Court held that there needed to be a connection between an injury sustained during a work interval, on a work trip, and an activity induced or encouraged by the employer.
"The High Court further determined that this connection does not exist just because of an inducement or encouragement by the employer to be at that place,'' it said.
''The decision in this case was based on whether the employer induced or encouraged the activity of the worker. The High Court held that the employer did not induce or encourage the activity which led to the injury.''
Appearing for the Federal Government at the High Court hearing in August, Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson, told six judges that the sex activity was "in every sense a personal choice".
The previous appeal to the Federal Court was successful when the lower court decided the Government, having sent the woman on the trip, was liable for everything that happened to her there, provided she was not engaging in misconduct.
But Comcare’s appeal to Australia’s highest court argued that the injury was sustained during an interval or interlude to the woman’s official duties and was not “compensable”.
In a judgment handed down in Canberra, the High Court upheld Comcare's appeal in a 4-2 majority decision.
Comcare will review the court’s decision and release relevant jurisdictional policy advice if required.
Edition 386, 5 November 2013