I never cease to be amazed at the inconsistencies in decision of senior Australian courts about the extent of an employer’s duty of care. In Packer v Tall Ships Sailing Cruises Australia (2014) QSC 212 delivered on 29 August 2014, the Queensland Supreme Court has held that an employer did not breach its duty of care to an employee who was assaulted by a member of another group when the employer organized a Christmas function for its staff which involved a cruise and the consumption of alcohol. Now I do not for one moment quarrel with this decision, which seems palpable correct and wise to me, but there are other cases where the extent of the duty of care upon employers has become ridiculous. In due course, through a series of blogs I intend to take my readers to cases at the opposite extremes of the spectrum and in due course I may invite them to agree that it is indeed curious that the issue whether a particular incident is an insured event is relevant, when it should not be.
In this case though, Justice Jackson was undoubtedly correct in refusing to conclude that the employer had been in breach of its duty of care when there was no foreseeable reason to suspect that a member of another Christmas function on the same vessel might become intoxicated and assault an employee of another group when he asked them to be more careful with foul language in the presence of his children, who were also invited to the event.