Victoria is headed for a bad hay fever season. Picture: istock
Victoria is headed for a bad hay fever season. Picture: istock

Sneeze costs Aussie woman more than $170k

A sneeze has cost a NSW woman more than $170,000 after her twin sister successfully sued her over a traffic accident.

Budding lawyer Caitlin Douglas was on Wednesday awarded a six-figure sum by the NSW District Court after she suffered lower back pain as a result of the October 2016 crash.

Judge Leonard Levy found the 21-year-old's future earning capacity had been reduced by $150,000 because she was unable to lift more than 10kg and would be hindered in her ability to work long hours.

"The regular or intermittent experience of pain and the need for tailored and defined working restrictions along with the practical need for ergonomic furniture, and the need to make provision for regular breaks, is likely to be seen by a prospective legal employer to be negative factors in a competitive employment market," Judge Levy said.

"Even if the plaintiff continues to do well academically. Rightly or wrongly, the reality is that often, without over-explanation, able-bodied candidates are preferred to those with a disability."

After the accident, Caitlin Douglas was unable to lift more than 10kg. Picture: Stock
After the accident, Caitlin Douglas was unable to lift more than 10kg. Picture: Stock

She was awarded a total of $172,500, including $10,000 for future domestic assistance, $7500 for future treatment costs and $5000 for out-of-pocket expenses.

The court heard Ms Douglas, a Year 11 student at the time, was injured when she was the front-seat passenger during a car accident in which her twin sister Brighid was the driver.

The car left Donnells Creek Road at Moruya, on NSW's far south coast, after her sister sneezed and lost control before hitting a tree.

Ms Douglas experienced whiplash-like injuries the following day, but two years later was forced to see a series of doctors and chiropractors because of lower back pain.

The court heard that after graduating high school as dux, Ms Douglas took up a legal and commerce degree at the University of Sydney, worked as a part-time law clerk and was on her way to pursuing a legal career.

Judge Levy found that in the future she would be hindered in her chosen profession because she had difficulty sitting for long periods and carrying heavy objects.

"If illustration of the lifting and carrying component of legal work was required, it would be sufficient to recognise that the weighty folders that were provided to the court, weighed several kilograms," Judge Levy said.

"It is well-recognised from observing litigation over a long period that trolleys laden with such materials are most commonly pulled and pushed by the most junior members of a legal practice."

Originally published as Sneeze costs NSW woman more than $170k

The judge said her profession would require lifting heavy piles of documents. Picture: Supplied
The judge said her profession would require lifting heavy piles of documents. Picture: Supplied

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