A recent decision of the Queensland Supreme Court confirms a consumer’s rights to recover damages in circumstances where a product has a safety defect, and that defect causes injury, loss, and damage.

In the decision of Forostenko v Springfree Trampoline Australia Pty Ltd, the Court held that a freshly unboxed trampoline caused the Plaintiff, a 41-year old father of three, to suffer significant physical and psychological injuries. And on Christmas day of all days!

Within this article our team of Personal Injury lawyers unpack the intricacies of the matter and the decision made by the Queensland Supreme Court.

The Facts – Product Safety

The Plaintiff, a self-employed physiotherapist, attempted to jump on the Springfree trampoline at his sister’s house on Christmas Day in 2017. The Plaintiff jumped slightly waywardly and bounced off-centre into the netted area on the outer part of the trampoline. His right foot landed near the edge of the net, where a hard plastic cleat was installed underneath webbing. The Plaintiff felt pain immediately after and got off the trampoline. As a result, he suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture – more commonly referred to as a ‘dancer’s fracture’.

The Plaintiff commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court against the manufacturer of the trampoline, Springfree, both in negligence and pursuant to section 138 of the Australian Consumer Law (contained within Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).

The Decision

While the Court considered the way in which the Plaintiff landed, and suggestions he had ‘bottomed out’ while jumping, the decision ultimately turned on the defective design of the trampoline. Justice Hindman found the Plaintiff had landed flat-footed either on or close to the webbing, and the plastic cleat did cause – or significantly contribute to – the Plaintiff’s right foot inverting and suffering the relevant injury.

It was found that the plastic cleat operated as a ball joint which created the potential for a foot to invert while the trampoline mat depressed, which caused an increased risk of injury to consumers. Justice Hindman highlighted that the trampoline lacked any proper warning advising consumers that they should take extra care while jumping on the webbing, or that they should avoid jumping on the webbing all together, to avoid injury as a result of this design.

The court found in favour of the Plaintiff pursuant to section 138 of the Australian Consumer Law, which states that a manufacturer is liable to pay compensation if their goods have a safety defect which causes injury.

As the court accepted that Springfree had breached the Australian Consumer Law by failing to provide appropriate warnings of the relevant safety risk, it was decided that it was not necessary to also consider whether Springfree was liable in negligence.

The Plaintiff suffered significant injuries as a result of this incident, both physical and psychological, which impacted his ability to work as a physiotherapist and led to him requiring care and assistance with ordinary tasks of daily living.

Ultimately His Honour awarded the Plaintiff damages in the sum of $744,175.00, made up as follows:

General Damages (Pain and Suffering) $20,270.00
Past Economic Loss $388,763
Interest on Past Economic Loss $13,604
Future Economic Loss $225,000
Past Care and Assistance $66,480
Past Special Damages $14,892.86
Interest on Past Special Damages $165.31
Future Special Damages (Treatment and Pharmaceuticals) $15,000.00

Key Takeaways Regarding Product Safety:

This decision provides helpful insight into the application of the Australian Consumer Law, and notes key factors injured consumers should take into account when considering taking action against manufacturers for personal injuries.

Importantly, this decision serves as a reminder that the question of whether an issue is a ‘safety risk’ or not requires a broad consideration of all the relevant circumstances. Some of the factors the court would consider when making this determination include:

  • any instructions and/or warnings included about how to use the product, things to do or things to avoid doing;
  • the manner and purpose for which the goods are marketed;
  • what use a consumer reasonably expect to make of the product.

As noted, one of the major issues in this case was the lack of appropriate safety warnings. Interestingly, the trampoline came with warning labels attached, a user guide, and an instruction and assembly manual which spoke to safety matters – but this was not enough! None of those materials spoke directly to the issue of the plastic cleats or how to avoid an injury like this one (for example by cautioning consumers that landing on the cleats may increase your risk of suffering an injury, or to avoid jumping or landing on the webbing as your foot may invert and suffer injury).

Similarly, the product did include instructions that consumers should jump in the centre of the trampoline, but the court determined that the manufacturer’s own advertising material used language such as ‘jump safely to the edge’ and ‘no hard edges to land on’, which does nothing to warn of the relevant safety risk posed by the design. Further, the fact the webbing itself was yellow in colour and therefore clearly visible was also not sufficient to warn of safety risks.

How We Can Assist You If You Have Suffered an Injury From a Product Safety Defect

If you suffer injury as a result of faulty or unsafe goods, our personal injury lawyers can provide you with important advice about your rights and potential entitlements, with no up-front expense. Contact our team today for an obligation-free consultation.