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LAWS5001 Law Case Study

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Added on: 2022-08-20 00:00:00
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ceremony that had been postponed due to local COVID-related restrictions on gatherings. The wedding took place at a rural NSW hotel called Bliss Falls Retreat, so-called because of the beautiful waterfall in the grounds of the hotel, and run by Bliss Falls Retreat Pty Ltd ('BFRP'). As part of their wedding package, BFRP provided Annabel and Bradley with a wedding planner, Leonora, who helped them organise the wedding. She was present on the wedding day, and part of her role was to check that people were on the guest list as they arrived at the venue. Leonora's contract with BFRP provided that she would work exclusively at Bliss Falls, because BFRP wished to provide a unique experience in a competitive market. Her services were advertised on the Bliss Falls website and she was listed on their website under the 'staff contacts'. However, in order to make a profit, Leonora also provided wedding planning services directly to customers, advertised through her Instagram account '@weddingbelles'.

Many of the wedding guests were staying at Bliss Falls for the night, although the hotel was also open to other guests unrelated to the wedding. The ceremony was to take place outdoors in the picturesque grassy grounds of the hotel. After the ceremony, guests could enjoy drinks in the grounds while Annabel and Bradley had photos taken, then the wedding dinner would be held in a gazebo, followed by a party and a late buffet.

Cooper and his husband, Dylan, were among the wedding guests. Cooper was a keen hiker and after the dinner he decided to explore the grounds to try to find the waterfall. Dylan protested that they were wearing dress shoes with no grip, but Cooper was insistent that it would be fine and set off alone. BFRP had signs at the hotel doors, and leaflets in the guest information folders in the hotel rooms, warning that the route to the waterfall was slippery and anyone wishing to visit it should wear sturdy footwear. They did not place any signs outdoors or fence off the route to the waterfall because it would interfere with the aesthetic of the venue as an attractive natural outdoor setting for a wedding. While Cooper was walking it became overcast, but he thought he was close to the falls and wanted to see them before returning to the party. It then started to rain heavily, as had been forecast for that day. When Cooper reached the waterfall, he jumped from the walking route onto a large rock situated in the river nearby to take a good photo of the waterfall. However, upon landing on the rock, Cooper slipped and hit his head. His hat fell off when he slipped, and it fell into the river. After an hour, Dylan began to worry about Cooper and got together a group of wedding guests to help search for him. Dylan was frantic in his search, and finally spotted Cooper's hat in the river. He rushed over and, realising that Cooper was not there, believed he must have been washed into the river and drowned. Dylan broke down in tears and had to be helped back to the hotel. After another thirty minutes, a member of the search party found Cooper unconscious and bleeding from the head and phoned Dylan to let him know. He also called for rescue and Cooper was taken to the local hospital where he made a good recovery after three months of treatment. Dylan now suffers flashbacks and nightmares and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Annabel and Bradley (and most of the guests at the wedding) were unaware of Cooper's disappearance and the search, and were enjoying the party. The hotel's waiters set up the food for the evening buffet. One of the waiters, concerned about food waste in modern society, brought out the leftover food from the dinner, which had not been refrigerateddespite it being a hot spring day. Around an hour later, a number of the guests became unwell and started vomiting. Among them was Firas, who continued to suffer digestive problems for the next 18 months, leaving him frequently exhausted and affecting his ability to work. He was eventually diagnosed with coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease that is caused by an underlying genetic mutation which may, however, remain asymptomatic until triggered at some stage in life. Firas was a casual worker in aged care, so whenever he was unwell and unable to work he did not receive sick pay. Having received a diagnosis, he was able to control his condition through eating gluten-free food, but this is often more expensive than other food. He would also need annual blood tests and a bone density scan every two years.

Late in the evening Annabel's brother, George, spotted a person at the bar who was not a member of the wedding party but a regular guest from the hotel 'crashing' the wedding to take advantage of the open bar. Both George and the other guest had consumed a number of alcoholic drinks. George was confrontational in telling the guest to leave and they got into an argument which ended with the guest punching George hard in the face. George fell, and hit his back on the corner of a table suffering a spinal injury. One of the wedding guests, Indira, was a junior doctor and came to check George's condition. In her haste to examine him, she rolled him onto his back, which exacerbated his spinal injury resulting in permanent paralysis. George spent six months in hospital undergoing intensive physical therapy before returning home. His wife took six months' unpaid leave from work so that she could be at the hospital to support him every day. When George returned home, his wife returned to work four days a week rather than full-time so that she could take on more of the house-keeping responsibilities while they both adjusted to George's condition, and after three months she returned to working full-time. George was a university lecturer and, while he was in hospital, the university hired casual tutors to cover his classes. When George returned to work, he decided to move to a part-time role. The university made adaptations to his office and some teaching rooms to make them more accessible.
Annabel and Bradley were disappointed that so much had gone wrong after waiting so long for their wedding. Bradley became fixated on the ruined wedding, feeling that it meant his marriage to Annabel was doomed to failure. He complained to BFRP who apologised and sent him a voucher for a complimentary week-long stay at Bliss Falls, but he was still extremely upset and started to suffer insomnia and was eventually diagnosed with a depressive disorder.

Advise BFRP, Leonora, and the waiter as to their negligence liability arising from these events. Please include in your advice to BFRP whether they may be held vicariously liable for any torts of Leonora and/or the waiter.

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  • Posted on : June 20th, 2022
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