How a paint job landed this fuel company in court
A PETROL station manager's decision to re-paint a yellow concrete structure black has set his employer back $96,000.
The Brisbane Supreme Court appeals division has rejected a claim by The Thistle Company of Australia that it was not liable for injuries caused to elderly customer Vernon Alwyn Bretz who was hurt when tripped over a black plinth at a Bundaberg fuel station owned by the company.
The then 80-year-old injured his shoulder and wrist and needed surgery to fix them.
The Bundaberg District Court originally found the company was responsible for the October, 2012, incident and ordered it to pay Mr Bretz $96,361.
However, Thistle appealed arguing "the risk of tripping on the plinth was insignificant".
The judge said the company's decision to paint the concrete block black reduced its visibility because it was the same colour of the ground at the station, increasing the risk of an accident.
Thistle argued the company did the right thing by repainting the object because customers had complained its original yellow paint was slippery and dangerous.
It also claimed that others had tripped over the structure but no one had applied for compensation.
"The trial judge found that the risk of tripping on the plinth was foreseeable and a not insignificant one and that a reasonable service station operator in the position of the applicant would not have obscured the visibility of the plinth by repainting it in the same colour as the surrounding ground," the appeal judgment reads.
"The trial judge found that the substantial cause for the incident was the elevation of the plinth and the absence of colour differentiation or other warning of the two ground levels.
"The applicant's failure to give adequate warning of the presence of the elevation was a breach of the duty it owed to Mr Bretz and the probable cause of his fall."
Thistle must also pay Mr Bretz's costs.