If you thought the ‘litigation culture’ couldn’t get any worse, think again. A woman who injured herself during sex in a motel room whilst on a work trip has successfully sued her employer and won some compensation for her travails.
The result has come at the end of a five-year legal fight, but now the full bench of the Federal Court in Australia has thrown out Comcare’s appeal. Comcare is a workplace health insurer that has been arguing that the woman’s injury, and the way she sustained it, was absolutely nothing to do with her job.
The woman in question was working for a federal government agency, and was sent on a work trip to one of the agency’s regional offices in New South Wales. The agency had booked her a motel, and she met for dinner with a ‘male friend’ after work.
Needless to say, one thing led to another, and a light fitting ended up getting pulled off the wall, falling onto her face. She hurt her nose and mouth on the glass object and consequently suffered from depression and anxiety – so severe, she claimed, that she could no longer work.
Common sense did at first look as though it might prevail: a tribunal ruled that the injuries had been sustained during activities unrelated to her work. But an appeal to the Federal Court subsequently decided in her favour.
Three judges ruled that: ‘If the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room she would be entitled to compensation even though it could not be said that her employer induced or encouraged her to engage in such an activity.
‘In the absence of any misconduct, or an intentionally self-inflicted injury, the fact that the applicant was engaged in sexual activity rather than some other lawful recreational activity while in her motel room does not lead to any different results.’
If it wants to overturn the judgement, Comcare will now have to appeal to the High Court. But for the time being, it looks like every element of a work trip is now a source of liability for employers: even after-dark nooky.