Judge Orders Insurer to Keep Paying Man

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain

An Australian judge has ordered an insurance company to keep paying out $5.5 million settlement to a 72-year-old man who was paralyzed in a forklift accident seven years ago.

The insurance company — Allianz Australia — has already paid Ivan Mercer, of Tasmania, about $2 million in connection with the 2008 accident at the carpet warehouse business where he worked.

But the insurance company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay the remainder of the $5.5 million settlement — which is the largest legal award in Tasmanian history — because they have filed a motion appealing the decision.

Insurance Lawyers: Stop Payments

Attorney Faye Ashworth, who represented the insurance company, said Mercer already has purchased a home in New South Wales and a car with the money he has received so far, according to a report in the Australian news. If the court sided with the insurance company in the appeal, it would be nearly impossible to recover the money from Mercer “without difficulty or delay”.

Mercer’s attorney, Tom Cox, said his client relied on the insurance money to pay for his ongoing care. The accident left him a quadriplegic and he currently spends about $9,000 per week on round-the-clock medical care. There was very little risk he would “fritter away” the money, according to Cox.

Insurer Must Keep Paying

Tasmanian Supreme Court Judge Stephen Holt sided with Mercer and ordered the insurer to pay him the remainder of the money he was owed without having to wait for the outcome of the appeal.

Mercer worked as managing director of Windsor Agencies, in Windsor, Tasmania. On the day of the accident, he was standing inside a cargo container when he was struck by a pallet of flooring materials that fell from a forklift that was being used to unload the container.

He suffered catastrophic and permanent injuries, including losing the use of his arms and legs. At one point during his recovery he required two full-time caregivers to look after him, working a combined total of 27 hours per day. His attorney said that Mercer has a reduced life expectancy as a result of the accident.

Victim Partially Responsible

At the time of the accident, the carpet warehouse’s primary business insurance policy with Allianz had expired, but it did have workmen’s compensation insurance with the firm. Mercer sued his employer, alleging the accident was caused by the negligence of the forklift operator.

When the case originally was decided in 2013, Tasmanian Supreme Court Chief Justice Alan Blow found that Windsor’s forklift driver’s negligence was responsible for the accident. But he also ruled that Mercer himself also had been negligent for failing to take proper care of his own safety by remaining inside the cargo container while the forklift was being used to unload it.

As a result, the original award of $7 million was reduced to $5.5 million, which is the equivalent of about $4.4 million in US dollars.



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