Light bulb moment harms pensioner

Mr Johnston was a 63 year old disability pensioner who lived in a Department of Housing property.  He had lived in that house for 10 years.  The house had fallen into a poor state of repair, which included faulty electrical wiring.

The department had inspected the home only at the time Mr Johnston had  moved in and then again in September 2010.  That more recent inspection occurred only after Mr Johnston had lodged an application with the Tenancy Tribunal seeking orders compelling the department to inspect the home and effect some repairs.

At the September 2010 inspection two departmental officers attended the home.  They noted a missing light bulb at the external light near the laundry door.  Mr Johnston had in fact placed a sign near the a light switch noting it should not be used (because of the faulty electrics).  In spite of that, the department officers asked Mr Johnston to fit the light bulb.

He then took a chair and stood on it, underneath the light fitting.  As he attempted to fit it the light bulb it shattered causing Mr Johnston to lose balance, twist and seriously injure his knee to such a degree he required a total knee reconstruction.

The court found that the Department of Housing had been negligent for allowing the premises to become so clearly defective.   That led to a foreseeable risk that Mr Johnston would be injured in replacing the light bulb and directing him to make use of the chair.  However, the court also found that Mr Johnston was also partly at fault for not ensuring the light switch was off before he attempted to change the bulb:  his compensation was reduced by 25% because of that.

If this article could be relevant to your situation please contact us.  We’d be more than happy to help guide you through your possible options.

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

Johnston v State of New South Wales [2015] NSWDC 46

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