Cotton On pays employee $250,000 for traumatic brain injury

by Victoria Bruce03 May 2016
Fashion retailer Cotton On has been ordered to pay a former employee almost $250,000 in damages after she suffered a traumatic brain injury from a workplace accident.

The employee was struck on the head by a heavy pallet at a Cotton On warehouse in Brisbane, sustaining head injuries and injuries to her ankle and knee.

Cotton On admitted liability and negligence for the accident, however the retailer disputed the nature, extent and consequences of the injuries its employee had suffered, Fairfax Media reported.

In his judgement last Friday, Judge Brendan Butler from the Brisbane District Court ordered Cotton On pay Erin Jade Talty, 32, a total of $235,668 in damages.

"I conclude that the plaintiff has suffered a loss of employability at the level she could have realistically aspired to but for the injury," Judge Brendan Butler said last Friday.

Talty, who has no memory of the incident, was hospitalized for eight days after being struck on the side of the head by wooden pallet weighing between 90kg and 100kg, which fell from a height of about six metres.

The incident has left her with a significant permanent brain injury, which Judge Butler says constitutes an "eight per cent whole person impairment".

Cotton On implemented a gradual return to work program for Talty, an inwards team supervisor, which commenced with a few hours of work a day and increased over time.

However, she says she had difficulty concentrating and experienced memory issues.

Eventually, she resigned from her full-time position in October 2014 as she was experiencing mental and physical fatigue at work and sought other employment.

Cotton On disputed the extent to which Talty’s injuries affected her capacity to obtain employment, and argued that the evidence did not show that her injuries resulted in her being unable to perform her work with the retailer.

Rather, Cotton On says her resignation was a voluntary decision on her part.

However, Judge Butler says due to her head injury, Talty would be unlikely to be employable in a supervisory position again, resulting in approximately $220,000.00 in future lost earnings.

“As she previously held such a position with two employers, this represents a real devaluation of her potential to earn income,” Judge Butler said in his judgement.

 “I am satisfied that due to the injury the plaintiff has suffered a real loss of earning capacity for the future,” he said.

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