Wollongong City Council has been ordered to pay more than $600,000 to a man who tripped and fell near the toilet block at Mount Keira Summit Park four years ago.
Former disability support worker Bernard Williams, 66, successfully sued the council after he broke his arm when he fell from the top of a stepped walkway at the summit park in May 2016.
Last week, a judge found that the council had breached its duty of care by failing to take reasonable measures to mark out the steps, as it did after the accident.
At the time of his fall, Mr Williams was working for the House With No Steps supervising a disabled client.
The Wollongong District Court heard that his client began rushing towards the toilets and Mr Williams quickly followed to try to redirect him from going into the ladies toilets. He then tripped and fell on the top step and broke his left elbow and left wrist.
Mr Williams argued that he could not see that the pathway was stepped, as there were no markings on the ground or other indicators and handrails to show that the path to the toilet stepped down.
After his injury, Mr Williams - who is left handed - needed five operations and was left in "considerable pain [with] ongoing restrictions and symptoms including a loss of fine motor skills, frequent pain... a loss of grip strength and changes in temperature to the hand".
He argued that he was unable to continue working at the House With No Steps, and - despite applying for hundreds of positions - was unable to find other work.
In a judgement handed down last week, Judge Mathew Dicker found the council breached its a duty of care to prevent foreseeable injuries from use of the park's amenities.
He noted that the council had provided ramps, railings and lookout facilities elsewhere in the park, and provided a disabled toilet which people at the park would reasonably want to use.
"The stepped walkway directly ended at the disabled toilet," he said.
"There was the use of handrails and tactile indicators in other areas of the park thus creating some inconsistency in their failure to be used at the stepped walkway."
He said a reasonable council would have done a risk assessment of the walkway and taken precautions to highlight the steps, as it had done elsewhere in the park and after the accident.
"I find that if the step had been painted a bright colour, as it was painted after the accident, or tactile indicators and a hand railing had been inserted before at least the first step, the plaintiff would have been alerted to the presence of the first step as he proceeded towards the pathway," he said.
However, he also accepted the council's argument that Mr Williams also had some responsibility for the accident as he was "aware that there were steps and other uneven surfaces in the park" and "was aware that the ground was sloping and that the amenities block was on a lower level".
The judge agreed to reduce any damages awarded by 15 per cent for this contributory negligence.
Mr Williams was awarded $715,449 in damages, including $284,369 for the loss of wages between 2016 and now, and $197,500 for non-economic losses like pain and suffering.
He was also awarded almost $50,000 for future domestic care as he is unable to undertake these duties because of his hand and wrist restrictions, and his wife - who is recovering from breast cancer - may not be able to do so either in the future.
After 15 per cent was subtracted from the total, the payout was $608,132 with some other costs to be calculated by both parties.
Asked whether the summit park would require any further work to prevent future legal action, the council said it was unable to comment.
"Council was disappointed with the decision made by the Court, and is closely reviewing the judgment to determine whether to appeal," a spokeswoman said.
"As a result, we are unable to comment on this matter further until all court action is resolved."
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