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Client Success Story: Zaparas Lawyers achieve successful Jury Verdict for Housekeeping Attendant

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Please note that this post was written for Victorian audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.

Zaparas Lawyers recently achieved a successful jury verdict for a housekeeping attendant of a luxury Melbourne hotel. The matter ran for 10 days as a jury trial in the County Court between 29 August and the 11 September 2023. The jury ultimately found that the Plaintiff’s injury resulted from her employer’s negligence, and awarded her damages in the amount of $686,474.

The now 65-year-old Plaintiff had been an incredibly hard-working housekeeping attendant since she came to Australia in 1998.

On 10 October 2017 the Plaintiff was allocated a VIP room to clean towards the end of her working day, with only about an hour to have the room ready for the guest. The Plaintiff found the allocated room with a bathtub filled to the brim with soapy water, which had overflowed onto the marble tile floor, and seeped onto the carpet. On top of that, all the room’s towels and bath robes had been thrown into the overflowing tub.

Despite asking the supervisor for help, the Plaintiff was offered no assistance and did not have appropriate equipment to complete the job to the high standard required, having only three microfiber cloths to work with. The Plaintiff gave evidence that it was against her employer’s policy to use guest towels when cleaning, even when there was not enough other cleaning equipment, and was aware of a former colleague of the same hotel chain having been fired for doing exactly that.

The Plaintiff attempted to soak up the water with the cloths, but this proved to be a futile effort due to the volume of water on the floor. When she attended to the towels in the tub, she was required to walk and stand on the soapy wet floor. While she managed to retrieve one small towel from the tub and squeeze the water out, her retrieval of a larger, heavier towel led to the Plaintiff slipping and falling onto her right knee.

The Plaintiff reported her injury to her manager that day and took the next day off due to pain. Following the fall, the Plaintiff noticed locking and instability in the right knee, which at times gave way and caused her to suffer further falls. This resulted in her stopping work in late January 2018, other than a brief attempt to return to work in June 2018.

Eventually the plaintiff underwent a right knee arthroscopy. Despite this, her knee remained painful and continued to give way, and she subsequently injured her right wrist in November 2022 due to a fall. This injury resulted in a right distal radius fracture that required an internal fixation with screws.

The Plaintiff’s case was that her employer was negligent because they failed to provide her with appropriate equipment to clean up what she described as the most water she had seen on the floor in 12 years of cleaning, and also failed to provide her with assistance or guidance when she requested it.

An Ergonomic Expert engaged by Zaparas gave evidence that the employer should have provided the Plaintiff with a mop and bucket, given the volume of water on the floor, an extra bucket for the wet towels and some assistance in handling them.

The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff was a very experienced housekeeper who was well trained and knew how to deal with the hazard before her. They also argued that a microfibre mop was available to the Plaintiff and that she could have in fact utilised the guest towels to soak up the water on the floor.

During the running of the trial, Zaparas managed to locate the former colleague who had been fired for using a guest towel to clean. Despite not having been an employee of the actual Defendant, this lay witness gave evidence which corroborated the Plaintiff’s evidence that using guest towels for cleaning was strictly not permitted by the five-star hotel chain.

While the Defendant maintained they were not negligent and did not put any compensation figures to the jury, both parties agreed that the Plaintiff’s past loss of earnings totalled $246,474.

King’s Counsel for the Plaintiff put the following compensation figures to the jury:

  • $246,474 for her past loss of earnings, as agreed;
  • $140,000 for her future loss of earnings to age 70; and
  • $300,000 for her pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life consequences.

After a few hours of deliberating, the jury delivered their verdict. They found the Plaintiff suffered her injury as a result of the Defendant’s negligence and that she was not contributorily negligent. They awarded her damages in the exact amounts put to them by the Plaintiff’s Counsel which totalled $686,474.

As the Plaintiff’s costs zone figure was about $56,000 after deduction of just under $150,000 in benefits already paid, this result was a huge success for the Plaintiff as it gave such a hard-working individual some reprieve following her injuries at work. Seeing the Plaintiff’s joy and gratitude following the verdict really demonstrated why we work tirelessly to achieve fair and just outcomes for injured workers.

If you have suffered a workplace injury you can get in contact with us here to set up your No Fee, No Obligation consultation or call us on 03 8527 0200.

You can find more Zaparas Lawyers Client Success Stories below: