Worker sues employer for $800k

IGA worker Dawn Ballis was a single mum with an “active lifestyle” before a workplace accident left her with horror injuries.

In a statement of claim lodged in the Rockhampton Supreme Court, it was alleged that on July 31, 2018, the produce manager was working a night shift at a store at Mundubbera, Queensland when she tripped over a wooden pallet while taking a box to a recycling area at around 7.25pm.

She was taken to hospital where it was discovered she had broken two bones in her right leg and ended up spending months in a wheelchair.

Ms Ballis told the incident had significantly impacted her life.

“I warned management at the IGA at Mundubbera about the poor lighting out the back of the store but nothing was done about it. I was worried someone would hurt themselves, but it ended up being me,” Ms Ballis said.

“I’m a single mum and I pride myself on being able to help my kids financially while also keeping the house in order. As a result of this accident, I struggle to do those things.

“I broke two bones in my lower leg and was in a wheelchair for three months as I was unable to put weight on that side of my body.” Ms Ballis said it also affected her mental health. “I felt guilty and embarrassed when I needed someone to help me with everyday tasks like taking a shower and getting dressed,” she said.

“I still walk with a limp, rely on family to assist with basic chores, and struggle to keep up with my young grandkids. I’ve gone from having an active lifestyle and taking care of everything myself to having to depend on others, which is really frustrating. “The accident has also taken a toll on my mental health as I come to terms with the fact I can’t live the way I used to live.”

Ms Ballis’ lawyers are seeking more than $800,000 in damages.

Legal practice manager and special counsel for Shine Lawyers Rebecca Ballantyne told the case should send an important message about workplace safety. “The client … had repeatedly requested management at IGA install lighting to prevent this kind of accident from happening, but nothing was done about it,” Ms Ballantyne said.

“Let this be a lesson to all employers, when staff members identify an issue, act immediately because ignoring the problem could cost more in the long term.

“Our client used to be quite independent and self-reliant as a single mum but she spent a long time in a wheelchair and the physical injuries have dented her pride and also taken a toll on her mental health.”

Ms Ballis’ lawyers claim her employer failed to provide a “reasonably safe system of work”, failed to train or instruct staff in how to navigate the bin area safely and did not carry out “appropriate or reasonable risk assessments”, which they argue meant the defendant was “negligent and in breach of its duty of care”.


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