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  • Writer's pictureEvan Sarinas

Case Study: Can an Employer be Liable for Intentional Assaults at Work?

Updated: 4 days ago

The recent Queensland District Court case of Mason v State of Queensland [2023] QDC 80 offers guidance as to the extent of vicarious liability against employers for an intentional assault committed by one employee against another, and for retaliatory action taken by employees against a victim following an incident.

Table of Contents

  1. Background Facts

  2. The Court's Findings

  3. Conclusion


Background Facts

The Plaintiff in this case was a Custodial Corrections Officer with Qld Corrective Services.


He was punched in the stomach by his supervisor following a disagreement about whether a prisoner was permitted to have a contact visit. After punching the Plaintiff, the supervisor announced to other employees that he didn't want to have to accost anyone else.


A witness reported the incident to management, following which the Plaintiff was subjected to reprisals and harassment from other staff. He consequently suffered a psychological injury.

The Court's Findings

The District Court made several key findings:


* The employer was vicariously liable for the supervisor's conduct in punching the Plaintiff, as he had taken advantage of his position of authority over the Plaintiff. The Judge made particular findings based on the supervisor's warning to other staff that he didn't want to accost them as well, categorising the assault as a "wrongful form of management of a subordinate by a superior".


* The employer was on notice about the reprisal action being taken against the Plaintiff following the reporting of the incident and the subsequent investigation. Despite the incident and reprisals, the employer continued to roster the Plaintiff and the supervisor on shifts together.


The Court held that the employer had a duty of care to not only investigate the incident but to also support the Plaintiff pursuant to their own policies and protections and ensure that the two men were not rostered together. They failed to do so.


Simply referring the Plaintiff to a free EAP service was not enough support to the Plaintiff in these circumstances.


Accordingly, the Plaintiff's case was successful against his employer, and judgment was entered in his favour.


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With the right lawyer by your side, you can pursue your compensation claim with confidence and peace of mind, entrusting your lawyer to fight on your behalf whilst you focus on your recovery.  

If you're ready to move forward, contact us today to benefit from our prompt results, strategic expert selection, meticulous evidence-gathering, clear and transparent advice and regular claim updates. 


Queensland Courts Judgment:

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