Crime Reporter Sues Employer for PTSD Following Repeated Exposure to Trauma

04 JUN 2019

 

A crime and court reporter employed by The Age and who developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of repeated exposure to trauma, has successfully sued her employer in negligence, with the County Court of Victoria finding the risk of psychological injury foreseeable and The Age breached its duty of care.

Background

The plaintiff, YZ, was employed as a journalist with The Age for the period 2003–2013, as a crime reporter from 2003 until 2009 and then as a Supreme Court reporter from 2010 until 2013. She was 27 years old when she started in the role. She claims that during this 10-year period she was exposed to trauma and vicarious trauma in investigating and reporting distressing crime, injury and death scenes. She claims to have suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) as a result of the exposure.

Court proceedings

YZ commenced proceedings in the County Court of Victoria against The Age, in negligence and claimed damages. She alleged The Age breached its duty of care it owed to her in that it failed to provide a safe system of work, failed to have a system in place to enable her to deal with the trauma of the work, failed to provide her with appropriate support and training, and failed to intervene when she or others complained.

The Age denied liability. It contested foresee-ability of the psychological injury, took issue with the nature and extent of duty of care, denied breach, contended that even if there was breach, it did not result in injury (causation). It further argued that even if YZ suffered injury as a result of its breach, the injury did not amount to PTSD and was relatively modest, having improved when the exposure ceased. [12]

His Honour O’Neill J found that The Age owed YZ a duty to take reasonable care against the risk of foreseeable psychiatric injury. The duty extended to the institution and maintenance of a safe system of work and the provision of appropriate instructions and supervision. Further, that there was no great expertise needed to understand that exposure of YZ could result in something far more substantial than simply tears and stress after a particularly difficult story. [130] Steps ought to have been taken by The Age to protect YZ against the risk of psychological injury. The Age failed to take such steps and breached its duty of care, with such breach causative of the psychological injury suffered by YZ.

Accordingly, the court upheld YZ’s claim and awarded general damages of $180,000, there being no claim made for economic loss.

For more information on the above contact Joe Bonura on (02) 4626 5077 or jbonura@marsdens.net.au.

This article first appeared in the CCH Australian Tort, Personal Injury, Health and Medical Law Tracker and is reproduced in full with permission from CCH, a division of Wolters Kluwer Australia: www.wolterskluwer.cch.com.au

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication

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