ACT News


$500,000 to child, mother burnt at golf club counter

A woman has been awarded more than $500,000 after she and her then six-year-old daughter received an electric shock from faulty neon lighting while visiting the Gungahlin Golf Club.

The judgment, handed down in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday, ordered the club and the installer of the electrical work, Focus Signage Pty Ltd, to pay the woman $512,781.09 compensation for medical expenses, income loss and general damages.

The decision comes almost five years after the incident in March 2008, when the woman and her family went to the club intending to have dinner.

The court heard that the woman was standing at reception with her young daughter, who received an electric shock after placing her arm under the counter.

The woman said she heard a "very loud electrical noise that run through the counter" and could smell burning flesh and hair.

Touching either her daughter or the counter, she felt a blow to her hip and fell to the floor with her daughter, who suffered burns to the top of her arm and her wrist.


Speaking about the following days, the woman described feelings of terror for the safety of the daughter.

She said she was anxious and upset, later consulting her doctor as she was continually crying and constantly had recurring memories of the incident.

Her husband described her behaviour following the incident as "zombie like".

The woman was referred to a psychologist and was later diagnosed with numerous conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and associated panic disorder.

As well as extensive medical costs, the woman claimed that the stress of coping with her work generated by her condition forced her to reduce her working hours from 27 hours a week to 24 hours.

She had previously planned to return to full- time work.

In their response, the defendants acknowledged that the incident was likely to cause distress to the parent of a young child, but challenged the claimed severity of the woman's symptoms.

They highlighted inconsistencies in clinical notes and alternate expert evidence, but these points were rejected by Acting Justice Margaret Sidis.

She found both defendants negligent.

In a report tendered as evidence, an ACT WorkCover electrical inspector concluded that the neon lighting installed beneath the counter failed to meeting the requirements of the Australian and New Zealand Standard.

Acting Justice Sidis found that even if the club was not qualified to appreciate the potential for electric shock, it ought to have recognised the foreseeable risk of injury to people, including children, from the heat generated by the unguarded electrically charged neon lights or from broken glass.

She ordered Focus Signage Pty Ltd to pay 70 per cent of the damages, while the remaining amount was to be covered by the Gungahlin Golf Club.