House v Anglo Coal

The plaintiff brought a common law claim against his labour hire employer and the mining company host where he worked as a truck driver. The plaintiff was driving a 280 tonne tip truck at the Callide coalmine when he ran into the rear of another tip truck along a long straight flat stretch of road.

It was common evidence that the trucks were large pieces of equipment and readily visible. In the aftermath of the accident, and during evidence at trial, the plaintiff could provide no explanation as to why he did not see the truck in front of him. The plaintiff blamed looking to his left as he went around a corner immediately before the stretch of road where the collision but the trial judge said this did not explain why he did not at least look forward from time to time, particularly after he had navigated the corner.

The plaintiff blamed the other truck driver for not using the two-way radio to alert the plaintiff that he had stopped, or at least slowed down, ahead of the plaintiff. The trial judge did not agree with this criticism as the driver could not be expected to be keeping track of the vehicles behind him. The primary obligation was on the driver in the following vehicle to keep a lookout ahead. In this regard, the trial judge referred to a number of CTP claims where the plaintiffs’ motor vehicles had rear ended the vehicles in front of them.

The plaintiff also sought to blame the mine operators on the basis that the road surface was not in a sufficient state to allow him to stop his truck in time. After a lengthy discussion of the expert evidence led by both sides, the trial judge dismissed the plaintiff’s argument as a red herring. The road surface was adequate and there would have been no surprise to the plaintiff. The collision would have been avoided if he had kept the 50 metre distance between vehicles and kept to the speed limit as directed by the mine operators.

The accident ultimately occurred because of the plaintiff’s failure to keep a proper lookout on the road ahead of him. The trial judge particularly emphasised that nose to tail collisions were unheard of at the mine site before this incident. Although foreseeable, the likelihood of such a collision occurring were minimal, and appropriate corrective measures were taken with training given to drivers (including the plaintiff), the provision of radio communication between drivers, and the fact that the plaintiff was an experienced driver who should have known better. There was nothing more which the employer or the mine operator could have done which would have prevented the plaintiff from running into the back of the other vehicle.


Sean Sullivan

Sean has practised insurance law for over 30 years, with a focus on employment liability insurance litigation.

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