Council pays out for gumnut slip

A TUNGAMAH woman has been successful in suing the Moira Council over a fall causing serious injuries after stepping on gumnuts in Yarrawonga’s main street in 2009.

Sherrie Lyn Britnell’s case in the Supreme Court at Wangaratta was settled yesterday morning.

The confidential settlement for an undisclosed amount was announced to Justice David Beach, who presided over two civil trials.

It has been agreed by the council’s insurer to pay all Mrs Britnell’s trial costs.

Her Wangaratta solicitor John Suta said she didn’t want to make any comment apart from saying she was happy the matter had been resolved.

The first trial began on November 9 and the six-member jury was discharged on the second day after one juror sought to be excused.

A second trial had been running for five days before yesterday’s settlement.

There had been evidence from Mrs Britnell and four other witnesses, including her son who was present when she fell and an orthopaedic surgeon.

She was represented by barrister Trevor Monti who outlined the impact of the fall.

He said she had been unable to work since the fall after being “spread-eagled” by the nuts which were like marbles under her feet.

“In the vernacular, she went head over heels,” Mr Monti said.

Mrs Britnell, 57, sued the council for negligence for her significant injuries that require continual medication for pain relief.

Mr Monti said two other women, one seven months’ pregnant, had fallen on gumnuts in 2006 and 2007 and lodged complaints with the council.

An arborist suggested to the council that it consider removing the Queensland brush box trees.

Many of the Belmore Street trees have been removed since Mrs Britnell’s fall on January 19, 2009.

Mr Monti said councils had a duty of care under the Local Government Act.

They must take reasonable care to prevent risk to people using their roadways and footpaths.

“They were well aware of the risk,” Mr Monti said.

The council’s insurers had argued contributory negligence saying Mrs Britnell failed to keep a proper lookout.

Damages were sought for pain, suffering and a loss of enjoyment of life.