Employers warned about liability risks after woman sues Bunnings for $1.4 million over hammock fall

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A former barista from the Sunshine Coast is suing hardware giant Bunnings for more than $1.4 million, claiming she suffered a brain injury after falling out of a $99 hammock.

In a claim lodged in the Brisbane Supreme Court in late November Julie Kilsby, represented by Travis Schultz of Travis Schultz and Partners, alleges that despite following the instructions listed on the product, she fell from the hammock while trying to get inside it because the fabric was too tight.

Ms Kilsby, who is 49, says she has relied on support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme to help with daily activities since falling out of the hammock she had purchased earlier this year.

According to her claim, the accident resulted in a brain injury and she now suffers from seizures, damaged memory and cognitive impairment.

Speaking to SmartCompany, solicitor at Parker Simmonds Solicitors and Lawyers Bruce Simmonds notes the lesson all businesses, regardless of size, can learn from this dispute is to make sure their insurance covers them for personal injury claims.

“Businesses need to ensure that their insurance covers them in these types of claims,” Simmonds says.

“Clearly, you don’t intend for someone to get hurt but if through some action someone is hurt you want to ensure that you’re covered,” he says.

Ms Kilsby is claiming $1.4 million in total damages, including $180,000 for the future cost of care, $250,000 to recover future economic loss, more than $48,000 in ongoing and repeat expenses and about $50,000 to recover past economic loss.

Bunnings has issued a statement in response to the proceeding, saying it takes product safety very seriously and works with its suppliers to make sure the products it stocks are fit for purpose.

“We take our commitment to product safety and quality very seriously, and we work with our suppliers to ensure that the products we sell are safe, compliant and fit for purpose,” a Bunnings spokesperson said.

“We understand that this matter is before the court, and it would not be appropriate for us to make any further comments while the proceedings are underway.”

Ms Kilsby purchased the hammock in January this year, and according to Gold Coast-based solicitor Simmonds, the Personal Injury Proceeding Act 2002 (Qld) requires the plaintiff to issue two notifications to Bunnings before filing a statement of claim in court.

These notifications give companies six months to investigate the allegations about the injury related to the business.

Six months after those notices are issued, however, the act requires the parties to engage in negotiations with a mediator to see if an agreement on compensation can be reached.

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