Co-worker peeling orange inadvertently stabs man in hand

In September 2011 construction was taking place at a site in Redbank Plains.  Joshua Boon, who was then 22 years of age, was employed there as a labourer.  A bobcat operator, Tim Summerfeldt, was working there too.  The two men knew each other from work at previous sites.

One lunch time the two men were taking a break on a grass verge adjacent to the site.  It was an area frequently used by workers.

Mr Summerfeldt was crouching down and eating an orange.  He was using a sharp Leatherman knife to cut and peel the orange.  Mr Boon, along with the other workers, had finished their lunch.  Mr Boon started to return to his car which was located nearby.  As he was walking,  Mr Summerfeldt stood up from his crouched position still holding the knife.  Without intending to do so he stabbed Mr Boon in the hand with the knife, resulting in wounds to three of Mr Boon’s fingers.  It gave rise to extensive injuries to two arteries, two tendons and four nerves.  Mr Boon also went on to develop a psychological condition.

Mr Boon lodged a claim for damages for his personal injuries.  That claim was denied by the insurer of Mr Summerfeldt and his employer.

The matter could not be settled and came before the Supreme Court.

Mr Boon alleged Mr Summerfeldt had been negligent for failing to keep a proper lookout.  He argued that all Mr Summerfeldt had to do was look properly before he rose or to not rise at all until Mr Boon had passed.  He also alleged that the blade could have been pointed towards the ground as he rose. All of these things, it was claimed, could have prevented the injury.

The Supreme Court disagreed there had been any negligence.  It found that Mr Boon had in fact come towards Mr Summerfeldt ad that Mr Boon was better placed to observe things.  It held that the risk of someone coming into contact with a knife being used by a person to peel an orange was insignificant.  Mr Boon’s case was dismissed.

Naturally Mr Boon was dissatisfied with his outcome in the Supreme Court.  So he appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The court found that the Supreme Court had been wrong to conclude that the risk of injury was merely the use of the knife to peel an orange.  It held that the conduct that created the risk of injury was the act of rising from a crouched position with a sharp knife.

The Court of Appeal observed that there was a foreseeable risk that a passer-by could be struck with the blade in such circumstances.  It held that a reasonable person would have taken precautions when handling a sharp knife in that type of situation.  It overturned the Supreme Court decision and gave a verdict in favour of Mr Boon.

Mr Boon’s perseverance was rewarded.  He was awarded injury compensation in the sum of $215,286.

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For more details read the full version of the court judgment:

Boon v Summs of Qld Pty Ltd [2016] QCA 38

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