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Case Update - Victorian WorkCover Authority v Australia Post & Anor [2015] VCC 1419

Case Update - Victorian WorkCover Authority v Australia Post & Anor [2015] VCC 1419

By Chantel Cunningham
February 10, 2016

On 16 December 2003, Sotiria Velissaris was present in the post office delivering mail as a part of her regular work. The post office was then held up at gunpoint by two men and she suffered a psychological injury.

The Victorian WorkCover Authority issued proceedings pursuant to section 138 of the Accident Compensation Act 1985 against Australia Post and the operators of the post office, Macedon Village Pty Ltd. The Victorian WorkCover Authority alleged that the parties had breached their duty of care as occupiers of the premises and that the breach was a cause of Ms Velissaris’ injuries.

The Court found that Australia Post was not an occupier. Australia Post did not own or hold any lease over the premises and it had no right to enter the premises outside of ordinary business hours. Macedon Village controlled the day to day operations of the post office. Evidence was led that Australia Post retained some control over the security measures required at the premises; however, this did not amount to ‘occupational control.’ The Court also held that Australia Post did not owe Ms Velissaris a duty of care. Referring to the High Court decision of Modbury Triangle Shopping Centre Pty Ltd v Anzil, the Court noted that if a duty existed, it did not extend to taking reasonable care to prevent injury arising from the criminal acts of third parties. There was no ‘special relationship’ between Australia Post and Ms Velissaris to distinguish the case from Modbury Triangle and the risk of criminal behavior at the premises was not so foreseeable that a duty should be imposed.

Macedon Village conceded that it was an occupier but for the same reasons as set out above, no duty to take reasonable care to prevent injury arising from the criminal acts of third parties was established.

Key points:

  • Occupational control is the foundation of a duty of care owed to persons lawfully on premises.
  • Generally the law does not impose a duty on occupiers to take reasonable steps to prevent injury caused by the criminal acts of third parties unless a special relationship exists (i.e. employer and employee or school and pupil) or the conduct was so foreseeable in the circumstances that a duty should be imposed.

The above is only a brief summary of the County Court’s decision.  For further information please contact Chantel Cunningham of our office on (03) 9612 7210 or via chantel.cunningham@wisemah.com.au.