Watch your step

On 5 February 2010 Mr Andrew Morris (the Plaintiff) fell from a cliff-top on North Stradbroke Island. He sustained serious injuries including paraplegia.

The Plaintiff and some friends had set off at night in search of a track/access point to the beach because they intended to go fishing the next day. The Plaintiff said he followed a track, and after stopping for a short time, believed he saw stairs in the distance and set off toward them before falling. The Plaintiff pursued a personal injury claim against the Redland Shire Council, claiming they were negligent in failing to warn the Plaintiff of the existence of the cliff, and by failing to have signage directing the public to beach access points.

The Court held that Council was not liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries. There was evidence that there was a directional sign, illuminated by street lighting, to the actual steps to the beach, and that the circumstances in which Mr Morris was injured were not ‘foreseeable’. The Court held that signage prohibiting access to where Mr Morris entered thick bushland would not have helped. The Court found that Mr Morris was determined to forcibly make his way through the thick bush at night. The Court noted that the Plaintiff had been drinking alcohol, and if it had held that if the Plaintiff had succeeded it would have reduced his damages payout by 50%.

The combination of unfamiliarity with the area, darkness, alcohol and walking off the ‘beaten track’ were a combination of factors leading to a serious injury and severe consequences.(Morris v Redland City Council & Anor [2015] QSC 135)

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