Injury compensation for a workplace jewellery heist was awarded by the District Court of Queensland . The payout was $270,000 to the Plaintiff injured in an attempted robbery. The plaintiff was working as a sales assistant for a Michael Hill jewellery store at a Westfield Shopping Centre in Helensvale.
The Workplace Robbery Injury
A man entered and asked to see a necklace. The necklace had a retail price of about $13,000. The man asked the Plaintiff for a discounted price. To check the price the Plaintiff had to remove the necklace from its secure cabinet and take it to the register. The Plaintiff found the cheapest price for the necklace was $7,900.
The man asked to feel the weight of the necklace. Michael Hill had a policy that when a customer asks to see an item of jewellery worth more that $20,000, the sales assistants were requires to ask for their identification. Despite this policy, the Plaintiff asked to see the mans identification. The man did not want to comply and instead attempted to snatch the necklace from the Plaintiffs hand. However, the Plaintiff would not let go of it and as such, it consequently snapped. At the time of the attempted robbery, the store did not have security doors or a security guard on duty, but it did have CCTV.
The Plaintiff sustained minor physical injuries, including bleeding to her hands, but subsequently suffered significant psychiatric injuries. These injuries included panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic disorder arising out of a chronic adjustment disorder with anxious mood.
The Injury Lawsuit
The Plaintiff sued Michael Hill in negligence for failing to provide her with a safe system of work which would have prevented the attempted robbery and avoided her injuries.
The Plaintiff argued that the store should have:
- engaged a security guard;
- installed security doors;
- employed a male sales assistant;
- trained the Plaintiff not to resist attempted robberies;
- had a price check system that did not require jewellery to be removed from secure cabinets;
- warned customers with signs that they were on CCTV;
- had protection barriers at the counters; and
- trained staff to ask for ID before removing expensive jewellery from the secure cabinets.
Michael Hill then changed its policy to require identification where an item of jewellery was valued at more than $2,000. However, Michael Hill defended the action arguing that the psychiatric condition was not a consequence of the robbery. They argued it was in fact a pre-existing condition.
Injury Compensation Awarded
The learned trial judge considered all available evidence and each of the precautions Michael Hill could have taken. His Honour concluded the robbery and injuries suffered were foreseeable. That risk was not insignificant and Michael Hill should have taken precautions to prevent robberies, and thus injuries to staff.
His Honour found that Michael Hill’s failure to take precautions caused the Plaintiff’s injuries and thus liability was established in her favour. The Plaintiff sought almost $370,000 in damages. Michael Hill contended that around $60,000 was an appropriate award. His Honour considered the lay and expert evidence and awarded the Plaintiff around $270,000.
The Lesson for Employers
This case highlights the importance of employers taking appropriate measures to protect staff from robberies. This may need to including training employees not to resist during a robbery. Otherwise, the employer risks liability for injury compensation for a workplace robbery. It also highlights the disparity in the calculation of damages available to be recovered, depending on a party’s interpretation of the lay and expert evidence.