Critical Burial Shortages Across NSW - Group News Feature
Critical Burial Shortages Across NSW - Group News Feature

Council defends cemetery injury claimaint seeking $900K +

A CENTRAL Queensland council is defending claims it failed its duty of care and that equipment was defective, after a former employee of 20 years filed a claim in court for more than $900,000 over a workplace accident in 2016.

Former Central Highlands Regional Council employee Duane Matthew Buckton, who worked for local government for 20 years, is suing the organisation for at least $917,551.

Council is defending the claim, saying it did not breach its duty of care because the accident was not foreseeable and Mr Buckton had an existing spinal injury from 2005 that had left him with ongoing severe sharp pain, which was exacerbated after he slipped over while playing with his dogs.

According to documents filed in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton on June 6 by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Mr Buckton was injured in a workplace accident at the Blackwater cemetery sometime in either June or July 2016.

The claim says Mr Buckton and his colleagues were erecting a marquee when the accident occurred.

During this work, Mr Buckton claims he was required to exert significant force with his hands above his head due to resistance in a pole.

"As Mr Buckton pushed upwards on the roof frame of the marquee, he felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder and immediately reported this to his supervisor, Kim-Marie O'Brien-Smith," the claim states.

It is alleged the posts and the roof frame had been affected by corrosion and impacts during the life of the marquee, making the task of extending the posts more difficult.

However, a Notice to Defend document filed by the council's lawyers states "the erection of the marquee was not at any material time made more difficult because of increased resistance between the upper and lower tubes of the post and the members of the roof frame" and "the posts and the roof frame were not at any material time affected by corrosion and/or impacts during the life of the marquee either at all or to such an extent as to make the task of extending the posts more difficult".

"The marquee was at all material times free of defects which affected the erection of the marquee," the council document states.

Council claims "at no time between June 1, 2016 and July 11, 2016 did the plaintiff lodge or cause to be lodged an incident report relating to any incident as alleged in that period while erecting the marquee at the Blackwater cemetery".

The document claims Mr Buckton did not take any time off work during that period and did not complain of an ­injury.

"On July 11, 2016 the plaintiff reported an injury to his right shoulder while shovelling mulch out of the back of a truck in the Japanese Gardens at Blackwater," it states.

"(Mr Buckton) underwent a three-level fusion at the bottom of his lumbar spine in or about 2005, about 12 months after the onset of symptoms ... since then (Mr Buckton) has never been symptom-free with respect to his back ... (he) experiences short, sharp, severe pain followed by more prolonged but less severe pain".

Council declined to comment on the court claim.

Council claims:   THE defence claim outlines more injuries Mr Buckton sustained:

  • Early in February 2018, he slipped and fell when playing with his two dogs, exacerba­ting his lumbar spine symp­toms, which then became more frequent.
  •  On August 14, 2016, he aggravated his right shoulder when trying to start a lawnmower at home.
  • On September 19, 2016, he was pulling weeds while gardening along the highway at Blackwater and experien­ced a sharp burning pain from his right shoulder to elbow.
  • On October 4, 2016, he was diagnosed with a sprain of his right acromioclavicular joint.
  •  On November 9, 2016, Mr Buckton lodged an incident report after he attempted to grab a truck side gate, which had started to fall off its hinges, and had to stop work for the day.
  • On November 25, 2016,  he was brush cutting at work when the harness of the cutter broke and he suffered further symptoms in his right shoulder.
  • On November 30, 2016, he had surgery on his right shoulder by an orthopaedic surgeon. He was cleared for work by the surgeon on January 20, 2017.
  • Mr Buckton suffered from depression, anxiety and insomnia for years prior to June 1, 2016 due to personal circumstances including the suicide of a friend.