File photo of a pop up marquee.
File photo of a pop up marquee. Contributed

Funeral marquee ends in $900,000 lawsuit against council

JUST going about his everyday work activities, the erection of one simple marquee, as he had done many times before, has allegedly resulted in a $900,000 injury for Duane Buckton.

Mr Buckton, now aged 40 and living in Blackwater, was employed by Duaringa Shire Council in 1988, which later became Central Highlands Council, as a plant operator and labourer.

He was on permanent restrictions due to a pre-existing condition in his lumbar spine.

As part of his employment, Mr Buckton was regularly required to assist with the erection of a pop-up marquee for funerals and other events on land owned by the council.

Some time between June and early July 2016, he was required to erect a marquee with three co-workers at Blackwater cemetery.

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A claim filed in Rockhampton Supreme Court on June 6, by Maurice and Blackburn Lawyers Rockhampton on behalf of Mr Buckton, alleges the council did not provide a safe workplace or adequate equipment to ensure the health and safety of their employee.

The marquee was at least two years old and when erected, approximately 1.8 metres long, 1.8 metres wide and 2.4 metres high with an aluminium or light alloy frame and vinyl roof.

Mr Buckton claims as he went to extend the post he was operating on, "the resistance in the pole and roof frame forced him to exert significant force with his hands above his head height”.

The claim alleges at this point, Mr Buckton pushed upwards on the marquee's roof frame and he felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder.

It is noted Mr Buckton reported this to his council supervisor immediately.

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It is claimed Mr Buckton sustained a soft tissue injury to his right shoulder, developed an inflamed shoulder bursa, permanently aggravated his pre-existing osteoarthritis and suffered an exacerbation of pre-existing anxiety and depression.

The condition required surgery, treatment and rehabilitation.

The claim says Mr Buckton suffered and continues to suffer from pain, stiffness and loss of range of motion in his right shoulder, his dominant arm, on a daily basis and relies on medication to alleviate it.

Mr Buckton continued to work in pain until about July 11, 2016, when he was placed on restricted duties and paid at a lower rate. Following a functional capacity assessment requested by the Central Highlands Council with respect to the shoulder injury and the existing lumbar spine injury, Mr Buckton's employment was terminated on July 12, 2018.

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At the lower rate, he was earning $840 per week.

The claim for more than $930,000 includes general damages, past economic loss of around $50,000, past and future loss of superannuation, future economic loss of $700,000, special damages plus interest and future expenses.

It is noted the marquee should have been regularly inspected for corrosion, regularly lubricated, a risk assessment should be undertaken and proper training for the employee in erecting the marquee.

No defence has been filed at this stage.

Central Highlands Regional Council advised they were not prepared to provide comment as the legal matter is pending.

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