Trainee’s attempted murder not mishandled; Optus wins appeal against $3.9 million award

Date: March 14, 2017


Optus Administration Pty Limited v Glenn Wright by his tutor James Stuart Wright [2017] NSWCA (17 February 2017)

Key Points


The Plaintiff was attending a training course operated by Optus when a fellow attendee (Mr George) left the course and went to an unauthorised place on the roof balcony of the fourth floor.

The course supervisor found Mr George acting strangely and reported this to two superiors who went to the roof balcony and observed Mr George in a trance-like state and repeatedly asking for the Plaintiff.  In an attempt to resolve the problem one of them asked the Plaintiff to see whether he might be able to calm Mr George down.

The Plaintiff said that he hardly knew Mr George but reluctantly went to see if he could be of assistance.  Mr George then invited the Plaintiff to look at a car in the car park below, following which he attempted to lift the Plaintiff off his feet and throw him over the balcony.  One of the superiors intervened to prevent serious injury but the Plaintiff subsequently developed severe PTSD.  The trial judge had awarded him $3.9 million.

While there was some evidence that one of the supervisors had described Mr George as “psychotic” the unanimous evidence was that prior to the assault they had assessed Mr George as being calm.

The Decision

By a two to one majority, the court upheld the appeal and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim on the following basis:


Although the duty of an employer or host employer is obviously a very high one, it continues to be very difficult for Plaintiffs to succeed in cases involving the criminal conduct of third parties.  Given the severity of the Plaintiff’s injury in this case, one can sympathise with his plight and his argument that he ought to be successful if he established that it was foreseeable some kind of incident could have occurred.

However obviously it is undesirable to impose obligations on employers or host employers to respond to events that are unpredictable.  As pointed out in the judgment, it is not practical for employees facing a critical incident to go off to some kind of manual to find out what to do.  This case demonstrates that employers will not be blamed where its employees deal with a critical incident in a commonsense way.


For more information on this article, please contact:


Chris Murphy
T: +61 (0) 7 3307 5504

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