Million-dollar payout for workplace back injury

Monday, 22 March, 2010

A 31-year-old steelworker has been awarded more than $1 million by a Supreme Court jury after suffering a back injury that means he will never work again.

Dong Pham had worked at Stramit’s manufacturing site in Scoresby since leaving school. It was first job, and now it will be his only job.

Lawyer John Karantzis from Slater & Gordon stated that Pham first injured his back in 2003 due to continuously lifting heavy steel beams from a conveyor belt. A lower-back spinal fusion failed and he continues to suffer daily pain.

“Pham complained to his employer for 18 months that his back was hurting, but he was ignored and had to keep on working,” Karantzis said. “He was also given no training in a task which was clearly beyond the ability of one or two men.”

During the two-week trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria, a six-person jury heard from six doctors for Pham. Evidence that he will never work again was uncontested. An engineer told the trial that a crane could have been used to lift the steel sections that injured Pham.

The jury awarded him $250,000 for pain and suffering and $817,000 for pecuniary loss. The latter amount is high because of Pham’s relatively young age and the earning he will now lose for the rest of his life. WorkCover will also continue to pay Pham’s medical expenses for the rest of his life.

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