Spider bite – standard of proof & trivial risk

Scarr v Australian Sugar Cane Feeds P/L [2010] QDC 8


His Honour Robertson DCJ dismissed the claim for negligence based on an alleged spider bite not being satisfied on the requisite standard:

[11] Mr Scarr has the onus of proving negligence on the balance of probabilities. Mr de Plater on his behalf accepts that the evidence on this issue is entirely circumstantial, and that the test of balance of probabilities is not satisfied by evidence which fails to do more than establish a possibility: St George Club Ltd v Hines (1961-62) 35 ALJR 106 at 107; cited with approval by Spiegleman CJ in Seltsam Pty Ltd v McGuiness; James Hardie & Coy Pty Limited v McGuiness [2000] NSWCA 29.

His Honour concluded even if the plaintiff satisfied the above hurdle (which he didn’t) the claim failed because the risk was trivial:

[33] Even if the plaintiff had overcome this initial hurdle nevertheless his claim would fail, because on the evidence the risk of a worker in his position suffering a spider bite causing cellulitis was at best trivial. There is no evidence that any other worker was bitten and my acceptance of the evidence of the three lay witnesses who gave evidence on behalf of the defendant of the lack of a spider problem confirms such a conclusion. The risk was so low that no further step by the defendant was reasonably necessary.

Brisbane Barrister – David Cormack

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