Two people died after the two-car collision at Pimlico in 2014.
Two people died after the two-car collision at Pimlico in 2014. Doug Eaton

Ballina council worker's bid for compo after fatal crash

A SUPREME Court of Appeal has found Ballina Shire Council was not liable for compensation after an employee was critically injured in a crash on the way to work.

Joshua Benjamin Knapp, 38, was left with "catastrophic injuries", including an arm amputation, after a double fatality on the Pacific Hwy at Pimlico in July, 2014.

Primarily a plant operator, Mr Knapp also worked overtime at roadworks on Saturdays and had been employed by the council since 2003.

He was driving to work and phoned his supervisor shortly before the crash.

Smiths Lakes couple John Campbell, 54, and Joanne Campbell, 59 - who were travelling in the other vehicle - were killed in the crash and Mr Knapp was taken to a Gold Coast hospital, where he remained for more than two months.

He was sentenced to 12 months' prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death.

He then brought proceedings before the Workers Compensation Commission after the council disputed liability.

The arbitrator of the initial WCC proceedings found, in April last year, the council was liable for compensation after finding there was "a real and substantial connection" between his employment and the accident, that his injury was "not attributable to serious and wilful misconduct" and that he was "not guilty of gross misconduct".

The council lodged an appeal against this decision on May 8 last year and later in the year, the WCC deputy president delivered a fresh judgment, that the council was liable, but on different grounds.

That deputy president found the initial findings "failed to take into account factual matters (including) that Mr Knapp was travelling at a relatively high speed and, while making a telephone call, took one hand off the wheel".

But the council further appealed this and a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment recently handed down by Justices Basten, Macfarlan and Payne, found it was not liable for compensation.

Justice Basten found the WCC's arbitrator had dealt with the "journey claim" under the right legislation, but said Mr Knapp wasn't "undertaking duties in the course of his employment".

"That conclusion is not affected by the fact that he was making a telephone call to his supervisor, nor by the fact that he was using a mobile phone supplied by his employer," Mr Basten said.

He said the findings of the commission's deputy president, during the internal appeal, were also reached "in error".

They upheld the appeal and dismissed a cross-appeal brought by Mr Knapp.