A woman has won a $1.3 million payout after she suffered injuries lifting a carton of crockery at Freedom Furniture in the 1990s.
The ACT Supreme Court heard Rachel Gibson suffered serious pain that had changed her life forever and cut short a promising career as an architect.
Ms Gibson was 24 and working at the Freedom furniture store in Fyshwick when she sustained the injury in 1999. She was lifting a carton that didn't have any handles or grips and felt pain ''like an electric shock'' down the back of her legs.
The court heard she could not walk normally and was forced to shuffle to the homewares counter where she reported the incident to her manager.
She sought medical treatment and physiotherapy but sued Freedom after the injury left her unable to work full-time.
The court heard Ms Gibson, who now lives in Queensland, had been forced to wear a back brace regularly since the injury and often needed a lumbar roll for back support while driving.
A year later she suffered another injury at Freedom while she was lifting a set of venetian blinds, experiencing a sharp pain in the same area of her legs.
The court heard Ms Gibson was an active young woman who played tennis and enjoyed jogging and distance running before the injury.
But her partner gave evidence that she had only tried to play tennis once in their time together and she could not jog or join him on motorbike rides.
She could not do any chores around the house that involved lifting or bending down and was left unable to sit upright during car trips, forcing the couple to fly for long-distance journeys.
Ms Gibson, who trained as an architect, had a promising and lucrative career ahead of her but it was cut short because her injury did not allow her to work regular hours. The court heard she worked for several architecture firms from 2003 to 2009 but could not continue because of the pain from her disability and had set up a business on her own, working only three days a week.
In a diary entry, she wrote that she felt constant guilt about her inability to work regular hours, felt sick with worry and said her psychiatrist had recommended anti-depressants.
One of Ms Gibson's former employers said she had increasing responsibility and oversaw building projects worth millions of dollars.
He said if Ms Gibson had stayed with the firm she would have been made an associate and a director when he retired.
In a judgment handed down yesterday, Justice John Burns said the injury in 1999 changed Ms Gibson's life forever and she had endured years of discomfort, pain and psychological harm.
''She has been forced to relinquish employment in positions that she loved, and which promised great professional and financial reward, because she cannot physically do the job,'' he wrote.
''It is to her credit that she has continued to attempt employment in a self-employed capacity working to a level which she can tolerate.''
He awarded Ms Gibson a total payout of more than $1.3 million which included $866,487 in lost future earnings and $170,000 in general damages.
- Canberra Times