Government entity not protected whilst performing duties to enhance public safety
In a recent case of Roane-Spray v State of Queensland  QDC 348, the State sought to rely on the defence available under s 27 of the Civil Liability Act 2003, which affords protection to prescribed entities performing duties to enhance public safety. The court held that the defence was not available to the State, on the basis that it was a distinct entity from Queensland Ambulance Service, despite Queensland Ambulance Service being an entity to which s 27 applies.
The plaintiff was injured in an incident that occurred on 25 January 2012. She alleged she was tipped off an ambulance stretcher and dragged along the ground whilst being unloaded from an ambulance at Lamb Island Ferry Terminal. The plaintiff filed a personal injury claim against the State of Queensland for the alleged negligence of the Queensland Ambulance Service in respect of the incident.
The State denied liability for the incident and the plaintiff’s allegedly catastrophic injuries and argued that s 27 of the Civil Liability Act 2003 applied, so as to provide the State with a complete defence to the claim.
The court found that the ambulance officer was employed by the State of Queensland and therefore the State was vicariously liable for the actions of its ambulance officers. However, the court further held that although the State of Queensland was the employer, it was not a prescribed entity for the benefit of the s 27 defence. Rather, the prescribed entity is Queensland Ambulance Service.
The finding in this case would mean that the State would potentially not be able to rely on s 27 in cases involving similar agencies which perform duties to enhance public safety, such as Queensland Fire and Rescue, SES and the Rural Fire Brigade.
The State is appealing the judgment on the ground that the finding that the defence in s 27 of the Civil Liability Act 2003 was not available to the State, constitutes a legal error. The State will argue that the Queensland Ambulance Service, as an unincorporated entity, is not capable of being liable or able to be sued and that therefore the State of Queensland should benefit from the exemptions afforded under s 27.
The appeal is expected to be heard during May/June 2017.
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Published: 7 March 2017
Author: Principal Lawyer, Nicole MacPhee