Michael Hill, which was ordered to pay an ex-staff member $270,000 after she was left emotionally scarred over a store incident, will appeal.
Michael Hill, which was ordered to pay an ex-staff member $270,000 after she was left emotionally scarred over a store incident, will appeal.

Jeweller appeals ex-staff member’s $270k assault compo win

A MAJOR jewellery chain which was ordered to pay an ex-sales assistant $270,439 after she developed a psychiatric injury following a robbery attempt is appealing the decision.

Michael Hill Jeweller (Australia) Pty Ltd claims Southport District Court Judge David Kent made a series of errors in his December 13 decision, awarding Nicole Funnell compensation.

The company is appealing Judge Kent's decision on eight grounds, asking for his orders to be set aside and the proceeding to be dismissed, with costs, if its appeal is allowed.

The judge said Ms Funnell's injuries could have been avoided if the jewellery company had a better staff safety policy requiring customer identification before some items were demonstrated.

Ms Funnell had shown a gold necklace and wrist chain to a male customer at Michael Hill Jeweller's Westfield Helensvale store, on the Gold Coast, before she ended up in a struggle.

After being told the necklace was priced at $13,000, the man asked for the best price and after he asked to feel its weight, Ms Funnell asked him to produce his driver's licence.

The man moved his hand, as if reaching for his wallet, but suddenly reached over the counter and tried to grab the necklace from Ms Funnell's hands, the court heard.

She held on to the chain, with the help of a co-worker, and when the chain broke he fled.

Ms Funnell later became nervous and anxious, she had panic attacks and developed a psychiatric injury and could not return to retail work after the late 2015 incident.

Judge Kent said Ms Funnell had not been instructed to secure the driver's licence before accessing the display cabinet or before the customer handled any jewellery of the value of the gold chain necklace.

Judge Kent found the employer breached its duty of care and Ms Funnell's psychiatric injury was foreseeable.

But the jewellery company claims the judge erred in finding it knew or ought reasonably to have known of a risk of Ms Funnell developing a psychiatric injury.

It is also claimed the judge erred in finding a reasonable response to a "not insignificant foreseeable injury'' would have been to require Ms Funnell to request identification from customers wishing to handle jewellery valued at more than $2000.

Company policy at the time required customers to produce identification before staff removed jewellery for demonstration only if items were valued at more than $20,000.

Judge Kent said if that had been the approach earlier, as a safety policy rather than a sales process, the struggle and Ms Funnell's injuries could have been avoided.

The company also disputes the finding that if Ms Funnell had been instructed to secure identification before removing items from the display case, she would not have removed the jewellery.


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