Transnet on the hook for lift accident which left employee injured
Transnet has been given a stern smackdown after trying to wriggle out of paying damages to a former employee who was injured when a lift in the Carlton Centre plummeted seven floors.
The parastatal, which owns the building, asked the high court in Johannesburg to exempt it from paying damages to Gareth de Gee, arguing that he had been injured during the course of his work.
This, it said, exempted it from paying, as the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act doesn't allow for employers to pay damages for injuries sustained on duty. Instead, employees must claim from the compensation commissioner.
But the court last week rejected Transnet's argument, with acting judge Casper Badenhorst confirming that De Gee could make a damages claim, and ordering Transnet to pay the costs of its application.
"The facts provided in the stated case are woefully inadequate to support a finding, on the balance of probabilities, that at the time of the incident [De Gee] was acting within the course and scope of his employment," Badenhorst ruled.
He said Transnet failed to say if only employees used the Carlton Centre lifts, or if the lift was specifically designed for employees to reach certain parts of the building, or whether other tenants in the building who are not associated with Transnet shared the lifts.
He also noted that De Gee, who worked as an executive support manager, had entered the building before 6.30am, and that his shift was only set to start at 7.30am.
According to the ruling, De Gee had been en route to his office on the 48th floor of the Carlton Centre in the early morning of January 12 2015 when the lift he was travelling in malfunctioned and fell seven floors.
De Gee, 36, told the Sunday Times that after the terrifying incident he had been hospitalised and then bedridden at home for nine weeks, with doctors determining that he had permanent damage to discs in his spine.
He has sought multiple medical opinions and says that eventually his spine will deteriorate to the point where he will have to have vertebrae surgery, or fusion of the discs in his back, to maintain mobility.
He said that despite counselling, he still struggles in small spaces. He suffers from panic attacks in elevators.
But De Gee is more worried about how his future medical expenses will affect his family. "I don't want my family left with the bills . I've got a long career ahead, but I can't be left unable to work because of injuries to my back. I will need surgery," he said.
Transnet spokesman Molatwane Likhethe said De Gee was "entitled to compensation under the act".