Qld Rio Tinto worker $1m burns claim an 'exaggeration'

PAUL KENNEDY was working at the Queensland Alumina refinery in Gladstone when he suffered severe burns to the skin on his left foot from a hot caustic soda spill when trying to close a pipe valve.

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He went through multiple surgeries and skin grafts, saying he suffered with post-traumatic stress.

In a civil trial heard in Rockhampton before judge Duncan McMeekin last year the process technician unsuccessfully sought a financial compensation of nearly $1 million from QAL when he sued his employer for negligence for the January 2012 work accident.

But Mr Kennedy was found by judge McMeekin to also be responsible (50-50) and awarded him just over $191,000.

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QAL worker Paul Kennedy was injured in an industrial accident.
QAL worker Paul Kennedy was injured in an industrial accident.

He found Mr Kennedy also "sought to maximise his disability with some exaggeration".

Judge McMeekin found that a Facebook martial arts video of Mr Kennedy taken months after the accident was significant and showed him "moving quickly and nimbly, striking with both the left and right feet, pivoting on his injured foot... there is no sign of limp and no hint of any discomfort".

In his judgement judge McMeekin said the revelations of Mr Kennedy's martial arts participation damaged his credibility as a witness.

He halved the amount of compensation to be awarded on the grounds that Mr Kennedy has been an equal contributor to the accident and awarded him total damages of $191,061.91. And ordered Mr Kennedy to pay QAL's costs.

Mr Kennedy challenged both the findings that he was 50% contributorily negligent, and also the low financial amount awarded as inadequate.

He has now lost his appeal on all grounds before the court of appeal in the Supreme Court at Brisbane. The appeal was dismissed and Kennedy ordered to pay costs.

The court of appeal had before it the evidence that was considered during the Rockhampton trial.

This evidence included claims by Kennedy, 30, that he suffered severe and chronic pain as a result of the injuries which came into question by judge McMeekin after the martial video showed him performing kicks with his left leg.

Queensland Alumina Ltd (QAL) admitted to being liable for the accident but successfully argued Mr Kennedy's negligence was a contributing factor.

In evidence, upheld by the court of appeal, judge McMeekin found the employer failed to adequately mark the valves Mr Kennedy was working on. But that Mr Kennedy was adequately trained for the job, and thus had no excuse for failing to follow instruction.

In the Rockhampton hearing Mr Kennedy wore thongs, saying it was the only footwear he could wear (at that time) because of extensive surgery and multiple skin grafts to his left ankle and heel.


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