Miner awarded a $1.125m payout
A HIGHLY respected former coal miner will be paid nearly $1.13million after a coal loader he was driving crashed into an overhead beam causing him a serious neck injury.
Gregory William Souz, 55, won the court case against Cook Colliery Mine (CC Pty Ltd) claiming the incident at the mine in 2013 meant he couldn't work, had psychiatric problems and a dependency on pain killers. Justice McMeekin, of the Supreme Court of Rockhampton, handed down his decision on Friday, dismissing the mining company's claim that Mr Souz should have known the loader would not pass under the 2m high metal beam.
The court heard from several witnesses that the "high impact collision" crash between the 23-tonne vehicle and steel beam left both bent and out of shape.
Inside the loader, Mr Souz was thrown around, he had a seat belt on but it wasn't fitted with a sash.
Court documents show that immediately after the crash he complained of pain in his left arm; however, the experienced miner wanted to get back to work.
"His neck was severely sore; so was his shoulder. I then did the simple questions of, you know, who's the Prime Minister? What day (is it)?" witness Mik Davey told the court.
Mr Davey said Mr Souz didn't get any of the questions right although he appeared "lucid".
Cook Colliery's owner at the time didn't contest that there was a crash at the mine but claimed Mr Souz should have known the loader cab was going to hit the steel beam.
The court heard that at its lowest the cab was 1.9m from the ground, which was a clearance of 10cm.
However, there was a lever which allowed the cab to move up and down, a lever Mr Souz said he knew nothing about.
Cook Colliery claimed Mr Souz deliberately raised the cab and "simply forgot to lower it," Justice McMeekin's decision read.
Witnesses who were familiar with the machine gave evidence that disagreed with the mine owner, saying the cab would rise unintentionally while travelling over the bumpy mine site, while the driver was unaware of it.
The manufacturer of the loader had warned that accidental raising of the canopy could happen.
"It is entirely credible that an operator may not appreciate a change in height of what may have been only a few inches," Justice McMeekin's decision reads.
"The defendant was in breach of its duty of care. I do not understand why it was an issue."
Mr Souz, described as a respected man at the mine for both his character and conveyor belt expertise, was awarded a $1.125million payout.