Gumnut negligence: woman sues over fall

A TUNGAMAH woman has not worked since she stepped on gumnuts on a Yarrawonga footpath and fell heavily in 2009.

Sherrie Lyn Britnell’s barrister yesterday said she had been “spreadeagled” by the nuts which were like marbles under her feet.

“In the vernacular, she went head over heels,” barrister Trevor Monti told a Supreme Court jury in


Mrs Britnell, 57, is suing the Moira Council for negligence and her significant injuries that require continual medication for pain relief.

Mr Monti said two women ­— one seven months’ pregnant — had fallen on gumnuts in 2006 and 2007, and an arborist had suggested to the council that it consider removal of the Queensland brush box trees.

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

“It is easy to be dismissive of what can be described as a simple accident,” Mr Monti said. “This case is based on the negligence of the council.”

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 roadways and footpaths.

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

“In this case, the defendant denies negligence.”

Mr Monti said the council had said damages should be reduced because of contributory negligence in that Mrs Britnell had failed to keep a proper lookout.

The statement of claim lists 13 points of negligence.

Mrs Britnell’s injuries include a lumbar disc prolapse, chronic lower-back pain, chronic pain caused by a fractured right wrist and loss of strength and movement in the lower right arm.

She was working at a Cobram abattoir at the time of her fall.

Mrs Britnell had enjoyed her work and had intended to work until she was 65.

Mr Monti said her work involved lifting boxes of meat weighing 16 to 27 kilograms.

“Her employment has always been in manual activity,” he said.

“The plaintiff was active, she was fit.”

Mr Monti said Mrs Britnell was entitled to damages for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

The trial before a jury of two women and four men is expected to last about two weeks.