On 18 March 2022, the Queensland Court of Appeal awarded $431,738.88 in damages to a worker who was injured while employed at Daydream Island. 

When peaceful slumber turns into a real-life nightmare

Mr Schokman was asleep in a room provided by his employer, CIG Investments Pty Ltd.   It was a requirement of Mr Schokman’s contract that he had to share a room with a co-worker.   Mr Schokman was woken up by the distressing sensation of being unable to breathe. Unfortunately, his nightmare was very real.  In a shocking turn of events, he realised that his intoxicated roommate had mistaken his bed for a toilet.  He was standing over the injured worker, with his pants pulled down and was urinating on Mr Schokman’s face.  Mr Schokman was choking on and inhaling another man’s urine.   Mr Schokman yelled at the roommate to stop.   This prompted the roommate to move onto the bathroom and then apologise. 

When someone urinates on your face in your sleep, injuries are likely to follow

Unsurprisingly, Mr Schokman developed a psychological injury from this incident.  He suffered post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an Adjustment Disorder with mixed anxiety and depression.  The incident also exacerbated his pre-existing medical conditions of cataplexy and narcolepsy (which prior to this incident was well controlled by medication and was not affecting him).  This in turn affected his ability to work full-time and required ongoing treatment. 

Should the employer be held liable for the unexpected actions of workers when their shift is over?

Mr Schokman sought compensation for his losses through a workers compensation claim.   WorkCover Queensland defended the claim on the basis that the employer should not be held responsible for the actions of its employee.   The trial judge agreed and dismissed the claim.  However, the Court of Appeal has overturned this decision.   

The employer required the workers to stay in the room while employed on the Island.   The employer also required the workers to share a room with a co-worker.   It was a requirement of their employment that the workers take reasonable care to avoid negatively affecting the health and safety of others in the accommodation.  

The Court of Appeal decided that there was a connection between the injured worker’s employment and the intoxicated worker’s actions given Mr Schokman was only present in the room when the urinating event happened because of the terms of his employment contract.  

Therefore, the employer was found to be vicariously liable for the negligence of the intoxicated worker.  If the employer had not required Mr Schokman to be in the room with the intoxicated co-worker, then he would not have been exposed to the shocking events that woke him from his sleep.

What damages are enough to compensate a worker whose dreams turn into a nightmare?

The trial judge had previously determined the amount of damages that would compensate the worker for the losses suffered.  This included $29,590 for pain, suffering and loss of amenities of life.    

Working at Daydream Island was not Mr Schokman’s main career and he only worked there to supplement his income.   After the incident he returned to his prior occupation at a university, however the impact of the incident on his medical conditions meant that he was now restricted to part-time work.   As such, the Court allowed $400,000 plus superannuation to reflect the drop in his earning capacity.   A further $7,500 was also awarded for future treatment needs. 

Schokman v CCIG Investments Pty Ltd [2022] QCA 38