National

Former Department of Defence employee loses his compensation bid after lifting box of paper

A former Department of Defence employee has lost his compensation bid after claiming to have severely injured his back and left leg after lifting a heavy box of paper more than 30 years ago.

The man claimed his supervisor tried to straighten his back after the incident, which caused a disc to slip leaving his left leg immobile.

Former public servant: "He broke it by being stupid and sticking his knee into my back"
Former public servant: "He broke it by being stupid and sticking his knee into my back" Photo: Michel OSullivan

"He broke it by being stupid and sticking his knee into my back and trying to straighten me up," he told the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia.

According to court documents, the man heard a cracking sound while lifting the box and could not get off the ground. He lodged a claim for compensation and the government accepted liability for spinal pain.

He retired from his position in 1988 but lodged a further claim for permanent impairment three years later, although he was not entitled to a lump sum payment. He lodged another claim in 2014 but it was denied.

Dr Brendan Dooley, an orthopaedic surgeon, told the tribunal the man's chronic lower back pain was caused by the heavy lifting incident and the disc rupture was "probably permanent".

But Dr Dooley claimed the applicant's leg injury was caused by an assault at school that left with him a fractured skull and a cerebral contusion, a claim the applicant rejected.

"The loss of use in my left leg was not caused by my head injury in 1972," he said. "But it was mainly caused from my supervisor trying to straighten me after slipping a disc in my back."

Court documents show the man developed severe lower back pain and a spasm in 1987 when he bent down to pick up a pen at home. After an MRI scam detected a disc protrusion he was referred to surgery.

The tribunal was also told the man fell out of a car in 2003 when his left leg gave way, further injuring his back and leg.

Dr Philip Haynes, consultant occupational physician, found the man was fit for part time work in 2008 and recognised a head injury had caused weakness in his leg.

In a judgement, AATA deputy president Dr Peter McDermott did not accept the applicant's claims of ongoing pain.

"The most recent medical report from the treating doctor indicates that the applicant copes with any pain without medication except for occasional panadeine forte," he said.

"I do not accept that there is any cogent medical evidence of the deterioration of the permanent impairment which is the accepted condition."

Dr McDermott said he accepted there was evidence proving the man had difficulties due to his left leg but agreed they were the result of a head injury at school, rather than a workplace incident.