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NSW ski lift operator judged negligent

NSW ski lift operator judged negligent
July 3, 2013

A Sydney GP is set to be awarded substantial damages as a result of the Perisher Blue ski resort being found responsible for injuries suffered when she was hit by the handrail of a chair lift.

Dr Ghita Nair-Smith suffered serious injuries to her groin and lower back after the handrail struck her from behind as she waited to travel to the top of a ski run at Perisher in July 2003. As a result of recent NSW Supreme Court judgement she is set to be awarded a substantial damages payout after Justice Beech Jones found the ski operator was negligent and had breached its duty of care.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Nair-Smith had been waiting with friends for a chair lift to take her to the top of a mountain. As the lift approached, Dr Nair-Smith noticed the chair's safety bar was "down", as did the lift attendant, who "lunged forward, grabbed the back corner of the chair with his left hand, pulled the chair back towards him, and at an angle flipped the safety bar back up with his right hand and let go."

As the Supreme Court heard in June, the chair's handrail then struck her in the groin, damaging ligaments around her lower back and groin. The doctor claimed the damage has caused her "significant ongoing pain" and now lives with a consequent psychiatric pain disorder that has affected her ability to work full-time and reduced her quality of life.

It was reported that Perisher's defence had claimed that the lift attendant had raised the safety bar in time for Dr Nair-Smith to board the chairlift, and had the injured woman been standing in the correct position, the collision would not have occurred.

In addition, Perisher claimed that conditions printed on its lift passes state that they are "not liable to you for any loss, damage, injury of any accidental loss to a person or property whether arising from default, negligence, misconduct or otherwise by us".

However, Justice Beech Jones found that the actions of the attendant were "negligent and causative of the accident", with his judgement finding that Dr Nair-Smith had likely been standing in the wrong place because she had realised the safety bar was not raised and had panicked; and that although injury was "not inevitable", Perisher had breached its duty of care to the doctor.

The doctor has sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for economic and other loss.

Justice Beech Jones found that Perisher had breached its duty of care to Dr Nair-Smith and set the matter down for another hearing to determine the size of the damages to be awarded.

Perisher ski lift image shown for illustrative purposes only.

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