Kirrawee doctor Ghita Nair-Smith suffered serious injuries after being struck from behind by the handrail of a chair lift while she and a friend were waiting to travel to a ski-run on July 18, 2003. She remained painfully straddled on the armrest and was eventually pulled into her seat by a friend.
The 54-year-old doctor said she noticed the safety bar had not been raised and was threatening to knock them over as the chair turned the bullwheel of the lift. She said the lift operator grabbed the safety bar at the last minute, causing it to move out of alignment and wedge between her legs.
Perisher claimed the lift operator raised the safety bar in a safe and timely manner, but that Dr Nair-Smith and her friend unnecessarily panicked and she moved out of alignment with the designated loading point.
A judge found in the GP’s favour in July, ruling the ski operator was negligent and had breached its duty of care.
Justice Robert Beech-Jones ordered both parties agree on a damages sum but had to intervene when they came up with wildly different calculations. He awarded Dr Nair-Smith $1,192,597.50 last week, excluding interest.
The court heard the collision damaged ligaments around Dr Nair-Smith’s groin and lower back, causing her significant ongoing pain and, as a consequence of that, a psychiatric pain disorder. This had restricted her functioning, including her ability to work full time, participate in recreational activities, travel and have sex.
Included in the sum was $50 a week for a cleaner for the rest of her life, $235,032 for seven hours of domestic assistance a week provided by her family, $13,576 for equipment such as a special mattress and a kitchen renovation and $975 per week – or $325,000 – for the one-and-a-half days a week she can no longer work.
Justice Beech-Jones rejected some aspects of Dr Nair-Smith’s case, including that she had post-traumatic stress disorder or that she needed specialised pain-relieving injections.
Perisher disputed that all of the expenses were due to the accident, arguing the GP had underlying injuries, including a persistent knee injury from a previous skiing accident and lower back pain.
Justice Beech-Jones has ordered both parties to prepare interest calculations and legal costs.