Legal

Dan Murphy’s found not liable for death at work Christmas party

Cara Waters /

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission has found a Dan Murphy’s employee was “on a frolic of her own” when she suffered fatal injuries at a work Christmas party. 

Jukes Campbell was a fine wine manager at Dan Murphy’s in Noosa when she dived into shallow water during a picnic on Good Friday last year.

The Dan Murphy’s store Christmas party was held in March because staff were too busy to hold it earlier and Good Friday was the only other day the store closed its doors.

The store manager supported the event as it was “likely to improve staff cohesion and morale”.

The manager and assistant manager purchased food, drinks and ice for the function with money raised through fundraising undertaken by staff for that purpose. 

Around mid-afternoon, Campell and another worker asked the manager if he would take photographs of them running into the Noosa River. 

Campbell suffered head and neck injuries diving into the river and died in hospital two days later.

Her husband applied for workers’ compensation benefits but the claim was rejected by Dan Murphy’s self insurer WOW care.

This decision was upheld by the QIRC which found while the Christmas party itself was a work activity, the particular activity of diving into the river was not.

The commission also rejected a claim that Dan Murphy’s, through its store manager, induced or encouraged Campbell to dive into the river by agreeing to take photographs of her. 

Ultimately, QIRC found Campbell’s injuries were sustained because of her own behaviour and while she was “on a frolic of her own”. 

“The employee makes a wholly private choice to engage in an activity which falls outside the ambit of the employer’s requirement that the employee be away from the usual ‘place’ of work. Such choices will carry their own benefits, risks and consequences which the employer is not required to be an insurer against”.

Nicole Lythall, senior associate at BTLawyers, says the decision provides further clarity for employers in determining applications for compensation for injuries sustained at social work functions. 

“Importantly, the decision shows an employer will not be responsible for injuries sustained at such events where, notwithstanding the worker was encouraged or induced to attend the event, they were not encouraged or induced to engage in the particular activity resulting in the injury.” 

Campbell’s husband is appealing the decision. 

Dan Murphy’s declined to comment.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is a former SmartCompany editor. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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