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On appeal: QSC marine engine repairs decision

Case note: Ireland v B & M Outboard Repairs [2015] QSC 84

Mechanic Negligence Lawyer – Mechanic Negligence Cases – Professional Negligence Cases – Proof of Negligence – Civil Liability Act Qld


The Plaintiff, Colin Ireland, brought a claim for neck and psychiatric injuries from an explosion on 10 April 2006.

B & M Outboard Repairs (Defendant) performed the maintenance, repair and modification of outboard marine engines. In September 2004, the Defendant replaced the fuel lines of the Plaintiff’s Haines Hunter (Vessel) and installed an electric fuel pump in the battery compartment.  After the Defendants performed the work the Plaintiff used the Vessel a few times without incident.

In March 2006, the Plaintiff received an enquiry from a prospective purchaser and set about putting the Vessel in a seaworthy condition. The Plaintiff and his son performed some work on the Vessel.

Some repair work was required to the leg of the outboard motor. Mr Brian Keech, a long term friend of the Plaintiff and a qualified mechanic, assisted with the fitting and repairing of the leg to the outboard motor. Mr Keech inspected the battery compartments and told the Plaintiff it was dangerous to have the fuel lines, electric fuel pump and battery compartment in close proximity to one another, because of the risk of a spark.

The Plaintiff took the Vessel to Port Hinchinbrook, to launch it for a seaworthy trial. Once the Vessel was in the water, the Plaintiff reached into the Vessel, turned the ignition key and described ‘a ‘whoosh’ and some flames which forced him to recoil backwards whereupon he fell into shallow water on the back of his neck’.

The Plaintiff suffered a psychiatric injury and a cervical spine injury.  However, the documentary evidence suggested there was no explicit reporting of cervical spine symptoms until 17 months after the incident.

The Plaintiff was head of the Life Church, Townsville. The Church agreed to continue to pay the Plaintiff 100% of his salary, on his agreement to re-pay 50% of it, in the event he was awarded compensation. With this arrangement, the Plaintiff was effectively overpaid an amount of $300,000 in wages for his services to the Church, as at the date of trial.


Liability and quantum were in issue. The Defendant challenged the Plaintiff on the cause of the explosion, his reporting of the incident, as well as the nature and extent of his injuries. The Defendant disputed that it had breached the contract with the Plaintiff to perform the work or that they breached the duty of care owed.  The case also considered several defences available under the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld).


In a judgment delivered 8 April 2015, the Court found as follows:

  1. The Defendants recommended and installed a new system for the pumping of and delivery of fuel to the outboard engine and in a relatively confined space installed the electric pump close to potential ignition sources. A consequential fire and explosion was foreseeable and the risk of personal injury from such an event was foreseeable. The Defendants should be held responsible for the harm suffered by the Plaintiff.
  2. The Plaintiff did not voluntarily assume an obvious risk, was not engaged in a dangerous recreational activity and was not contributorily negligent, despite the warning from Mr Keech.
  3. The Plaintiff suffered a serious and disabling psychiatric illness. Damages were assessed in the sum of $703,721. This amount included $351,000 for past economic loss, calculated on the basis that the Plaintiff had suffered a 45%-55% loss of earning capacity.


An appeal was filed in the Court on 5 May 2015 by the Defendant. The appeal was discontinued by agreement in July 2015.

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Kate DenningOn appeal: QSC marine engine repairs decision
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No Liability for Volunteers

Case note: Goodhue v Volunteer Marine Rescue Association Incorporated [2015] QDC 029 

Liability of Volunteers – Liability of Incorporated Association – Liability of Volunteer Workers – Liability of Committee Members of Incorporated Association – Civil Liability Act Volunteers – Liability of Voluntary Association – Immunity of Volunteers


The Plaintiff, Bill Goodhue, was the owner of a vessel called ‘Warlock’ (Vessel), a 12 metre ferro-cement ketch yacht.  He purchased the Vessel in 1983 for $17,500 and lived on it intermittently.

He anchored the Vessel in Marine Stadium, on the Spit, at Southport, Queensland.  In August 2003, he left Australia for New Zealand, having secured the Vessel with a Danforth style anchor. He asked two friends to keep an eye on it while he was overseas.  The Plaintiff was a member of the Volunteer Marine Rescue (the Defendant) and had taped his membership card to the Vessel’s porthole, with the name and mobile number of one of the friends.

On 25 October 2003, the Defendant responded to an emergency call from a nearby vessel, ‘Manuhere’.  The Plaintiff’s Vessel was dragging its anchor.  The volunteers pulled up the anchor (an Admiralty anchor and not a Danforth) and re-anchored the Vessel.  After moving it, the water depth was checked with a depth sounder.  The volunteers checked on the position of the Vessel later in the day and were satisfied it was holding its anchor.  It was seen up to a week later, in the same position.

Over a week after it was moved, the Vessel ran aground, resulting in damage to its interior, electrics and contents.

Issue for determination

The Plaintiff’s case was that Defendant breached its duty of care to him, because the volunteers moved the Vessel without his permission.  He argued that it was re-anchored without sufficient depth and too close to the western shore in Marine Stadium.  The Plaintiff said that his Vessel was simply yawing on its anchor and that the volunteers should have directed the Manuhere to move instead.


The Court made these findings:

  • It was necessary for the volunteers to move the Vessel and if the volunteers had not taken that action, the Vessel would have struck the Manuhere.
  • The scope of the duty of care owed by the Defendant did not extend to contacting the Plaintiff.
  • The Defendant’s duty was limited to re-anchoring the Vessel in a competent manner and it did so.

In the judgment, McGinness DCJ said that a broader duty would have a devastating effect for the operations of the Volunteer Marine Rescue.

The Court also expressed the view that where the law gives immunity to an individual volunteer from civil liability, that immunity should extend to the volunteer organisation for whom they do volunteer work.   However, as the Plaintiff failed to prove that the actions of the volunteers actually caused the Vessel to run aground, this finding did not determine the case.

The Plaintiff’s claim was dismissed with costs.  The decision is of interest because it is the first judgment that has considered whether an organisation using volunteers could be immune from civil liability under Queensland law.

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Kate DenningNo Liability for Volunteers
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InDefence covers legal and technical issues in a general way. Changes in circumstances or the law may affect the completeness or accuracy of the information published. InDefence is not designed to express opinions on specific cases, to provide legal advice or to establish a relationship of client and lawyer between Denning Insurance Law and the reader, or any third party. No person should act or refrain from acting solely on the basis of this publication. You should seek legal advice particular to your circumstances before taking action on any issue dealt with in this blog.