Lindeman Ltd v Colvin (1946) 74 CLR 313

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Facts

  • Colvin was an employee of Lindeman Ltd who suffered a head injury at work and was unable to work for several months. As this was the result of a workplace injury, he was entitled to worker’s compensation payments.
  • While Colvin was receiving treatment for his head injury in hospital his doctor told him it would be a good idea to start walking around to build up his strength.
  • One day, he fell down the stairs and broke his leg. This had nothing to do with his head injury; it was actually caused by a pre-existing medical condition that made his bones brittle.
  • At first instance, the tribunal held that it was nonetheless a worker’s compensation claim, because he had fallen while performing medical advice (walking).
  • Lindeman Ltd appealed.

Issue

  • Was Colvin’s injury in the course of his employment, and therefore covered by worker’s compensation?

Held

  • Unanimously but in separate judgements, the Court held that the injury was not related to Colvin’s employment.
  • The Court held that in order to be compensable, there needed to be a “causal connection” between the first (head) injury and the second (leg) injury.
  • The Court disagreed that the mere fact that his doctor had recommended walking was enough to establish the connection. Colvin’s leg injury was caused by bone disease, not by the head injury. He could have just as easily suffered the same injury at home.
  • They held that the leg injury was a totally separate injury that was not work related.

Significance

  • This decision is significant as it shows when a secondary injury will be held to be related to the first injury.
  • A secondary injury must be caused by the second injury (e.g., if Colvin had fallen down the stairs due to dizziness from his head injury that would have likely changed the outcome). Simply that they were in the circumstance because of the work injury is insufficient.

Quotes

  • “In this case the cause of the fracture was quite independent of the original injury. The bone condition of the respondent was not due to or aggravated by or otherwise affected by the original injury… he act of walking was not necessitated by the head injury. Walking is a normal activity of ordinary life, and when the respondent was walking in the hospital grounds he was only resuming his normal life. There was no causal connection between the fracture and the original injury.” (Latham CJ – emphasis added)
  • “The simple answer appears to me to be that the broken leg was a distinct and separate injury due to a distinct and separate casualty or accident and that the fact that it occurred in conditions which would not have existed but for the sustaining of the earlier injury does not make it “result” from the first injury or “arise out of or in the course of the employment.” (Starke J)

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