Power v Return to Work Corporation of South Australia and National Pharmacies Distribution Centres [2020] SAET 252

This matter was heard as an appeal from the worker after a determination of a single Commissioner of the South Australian Employment Tribunal found that the employment was not the significant contributing cause of the worker’s injury. The Tribunal was required to reconsider the circumstances under which an injury is taken to have arisen in the course of work. It was agreed by all parties that the worker had sustained serious head injuries following a fall during an Awards Night held by his employer. However, the worker argued that it had arisen in the course of work, despite having a pre-existing medical condition that had caused him to fall.

The trial judge had relied on the decision of the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court in The State of South Australia v Roberts [2018] SASCFC 25 in finding that the medical episode was unrelated to employment and, therefore, employment was not a significant contributing cause. However, the appeal was mounted on the following basis: the worker had attended the function at his employer’s request and, if he had not been at the function, he would have been at home in bed and consequently not sustained the injury.

The Full Bench unanimously agreed with the trial judge and found that the employment ‘was not in any real or meaningful sense responsible for the injury, and there was nothing about the appellant’s employment generally or his attendance at the function that caused him to fall. Employment was merely the occasion of the injury rather than a significant contributing cause.’ The Tribunal also remarked that ‘he could have been in his own bathroom and fallen to the floor, or in another area with a hard floor.

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