One brain snap doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to compensation… for example, if you accepted a lift in a motor vehicle from a driver who was young and under the influence of alcohol and caused you serious injuries with lifelong consequences
The case of Pallier v Solomons, which was heard in the NSW Supreme Court highlights, the serious consequences that can result from the actions of youth and young adults.
In 2009, Charles Pallier (then 16 years of age), went to a party which was held by his friend, Trent Solomons.
Later in the evening, a dispute occurred between Mr Pallier and some other guests of Mr Solomons. Mr Solomons indicated to Mr Pallier that he and his friends needed to leave the party and offered them a lift home.
It was alleged that Mr Solomons had indicated to his passengers that he had been drinking, however he didn’t feel as though he was over the zero alcohol limit (which is the relevant limit for P-Plate drivers).
Mr Solomons also indicated that he was going to take the back roads to Mr Pallier’s home to avoid Police.
As Mr Solomons’ had indicated, he proceeded to take the ‘back route’ to Mr Pallier’s home. A short time later, the car left the roadway and crashed into a culvert (a structure that allows water to flow/drain under a roadway). The evidence was that the car rolled and landed on its roof, killing one of its passengers and causing Mr Pallier to sustain significant injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. A blood alcohol sample obtained from Mr Solomons produced a reading of 0.047 (Special Range PCA).
Mr Pallier commenced legal proceedings against Mr Solomons (in negligence and for compensation for his injuries).
Mr Pallier claimed that Mr Solomons was negligent in his driving of the vehicle and that he deliberately caused the accident.
Evidence was produced to indicate that Mr Solomons had told Mr Bailey (the deceased passenger) that he was going to drive the car off the road to ‘scare’ the other passengers, including Mr Pallier, as it was alleged that the passengers in the vehicle continually asked Mr Solomons if he was ‘ok’ to drive.
Representatives for Mr Solomons argued that he did not deliberately cause the accident, and that the accident was brought about by a combination of him being intoxicated and distracted while having a discussion with Mr Bailey.
Discussions occurred between the parties prior to the hearing and it was agreed that Mr Solomons was negligent, however, there was a dispute about the extent of Mr Solomons’ negligence and whether Mr Pallier was contributorily negligent.
Contributory negligence means that a person, in some way, has contributed to their own loss or injury.
In Mr Pallier’s circumstances, it was argued that he was negligent by accepting a lift by a person who he should have known was intoxicated.
It was decided by the Court that a ‘reasonable’ person in Mr Pallier’s position should have known Mr Solomons’ was intoxicated. However, it was decided that Mr Pallier would not have expected Mr Solomons to drive his vehicle off the road in an attempt to ‘scare’ his passengers. Accordingly, the Court did not make any deduction for Mr Pallier being contributorily negligent.
Mr Solomons then appealed the Court’s decision.
It was then found by the Court of Appeal that there was an error in the previous decision and that Mr Pallier took a significant personal risk by accepting the lift offered by Mr Solomons.
Mr Pallier’s overall damages awarded in the initial Court proceedings, ($1,638,062.00), were ultimately reduced by 10%, resulting in a final sum of $1,474,256.00.
The above scenario is typical of country New South Wales… it’s repeated every year and hard lessons are learned… and, in this particular case, fortunately the plaintiff is entitled to some compensation.
In that regard, we understand that compensation is not going to cure the emotional pain for this plaintiff and those close to him, however, it should ease the financial burden somewhat.
This case demonstrates that a poor decision, or lapse in judgment, doesn’t automatically mean you are disqualified from being entitled to compensation.