Woman injured by light fitting while having sex wins legal battle for compensation from Australian government insurer

Woman suffered injuries to her nose and mouth when a light fitting above the bed was ripped from its mount and landed on her face

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The Independent Online

A woman who was injured while having sex in a Autralian hotel during a work trip has won the latest round in her legal battle for industrial compensation.

The woman, who was a public servant, was in bed with a friend at a hotel in Nowra, 100 miles south of her hometown of Sydney, when the incident happened.

She suffered injuries to her nose and mouth when a light fitting above the bed was ripped from its mount and landed on her face.

She subsequently suffered depression and was unable to continue in her job as a civil servant.

Her claim for worker's compensation for her physical and psychological injuries was initially approved by government insurer Comcare, then rejected after further investigation.

The case initially went before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which found the injury occurred during an "interval or interlude" consisting of "the evening of the two days the applicant was away for work".

Initially the tribunal found that the woman had to show that the sexual activity which led to her injury had been expressly or impliedly induced or encouraged by her employer.

The government insurer Comcare claimed the injuries were not suffered in the course of her employment, and they were therefore not required to pay any damages. They argued the government had not induced or encouraged the woman's sexual conduct.

However, that ruling was overturned in the Federal Court, when Judge John Nicholas rejected the tribunal's findings that the sex had to be condoned by the government if she were to qualify for compensation.

"If the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room, she would be entitled to compensation even though it could not be said that her employer induced her to engage in such activity," he ruled.

Finally the Full Bench of the Federal Court has ruled in favour of the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

The woman, referred to as "PVYW" in the case, was employed by the human relations section of a Commonwealth Government agency when the injuries occurred. She has since been engaged in a five-year battle to claim compensation.

In upholding Judge Nicholas' decision, the court agreed that the government's views on the woman having sex in her motel room were irrelevant.

"No approval, express or implied, of the respondent's conduct was required," they said.

It is not yet clear how much compensation will be paid.

Comcare was considering an appeal to the High Court, Australia's highest legal authority.

"The issue is a significant one," a spokesman said. "Workers need to be clear about their entitlements and employers should have an understanding of their responsibilities and how to support their staff."