JBS Meat Works.
JBS Meat Works.

Ex-worker’s $570k lawsuit against Darling Downs abattoir

A FORMER Toowoomba woman is suing a meatworks company she was employed with for more than $570,000, after she says the job left her with spinal injuries that have ruined her life.

Tanya Cherelle Beard filed a claim in the Brisbane District Court earlier this year for damages related to a serious injury she suffered on January 15, 2018 while working at the Beef City meat processing plant, west of Toowoomba.

The plant is owned by JBS Australia, which Ms Beard was employed with for several years.

According to the statement of claim, the plaintiff was working in the intestine room at the abattoir and was required to process beef stomachs, or omasum.

The claim said the omasum could weigh up to 15kg depending on the size of the animal.

"The plaintiff was required to lift an omasum at or above shoulder height from a metal tray table on her right," it said.

"She would then place her left hand underneath the omasum and lift it with her two hands and drag onto the bench in front of her.

"The plaintiff then trimmed the fat off the omasum, cut the omasum in half and pushed the two halves in front of her off the bench into a bin."

Ms Beard alleges the table was 15cm taller than the bench, and in order to reach the omasum she had to stretch with fully outstretched arms and bend over the table at her waist.

"As a consequence of the incident, the plaintiff suffered personal injuries, namely, a thoracic spine injury," the claim said.

Ms Beard told The Chronicle the spinal injury had made sitting, walking and carrying things extremely painful.

"I've been through physio and lots of tablets - the pain specialist said he had nothing more to offer me," she said.

"From working five days a week and going to the gym, now I can't even carry shopping or play with my dog.

"By the end of it, I spend the rest of the day in bed.

"Even housework, my daughter has to pick up the slack because the pain is like knives from the front to the back.

"I can't even hold my own granddaughter."

Ms Beard is asking for damages worth $578,000, based on medical costs, workers compensation as well as past and future economic losses.

Her solicitor Kelsey Hyslop from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said JBS Australia had a duty of care to ensure their workers were not injured while doing their jobs correctly.

"It's really about employers installing workplace health procedures, to make sure what workers are doing is done in a safe way," she said.

In its defence notice, submitted earlier this year, JBS Australia denied several aspects of the claim, particularly that the injury occurred as a result of its facilities.

"The plaintiff was not required to lift omasum at or above shoulder height from a metal tray table on her right," the document said.

"Any movement of the omasum was a drag at or about hip height of an omasum that weighed between 3kg and 5kg.

"The plaintiff was 168cm tall; the bench was 970mm high; the omasum was dragged from a table 870mm high to the bench; the height difference was 100mm."

JBS Australia also denied the plaintiff suffered her injury as a result of the 2018 incident, citing a series of instances and appointments dating back to 2009 where she complained of back pain.

"The defendant says that the true cause (or alternatively, significant contributing factor to) the incident, any injury or loss the plaintiff consequently may have suffered is the plaintiff's own failure to exercise reasonable care for her own safety," it said.

"The plaintiff has contributed to the circumstances of her incident to the extent of 100 per cent by not following her induction and training."

A date has not been set for the trial.


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