Veteran truckie William Dowling has been ordered by a Queensland court to pay Blenners Transport and Truck Hire $545,312 after crashing a fruit-laden company truck in 2019.
Court documents from the District Court of Queensland civil case in Cairns reveal that Dowling attempted to answer his mobile phone while driving a Blenners’ B-double on the Bruce Highway just south of Ingham and veered off the road.
In-cabin cameras showed that after the Bluetooth earpiece fails to connect, Dowling looked up and down and up the road for about a second before swiping the phone with one hand.
“As he did this he allowed the truck to veer to the left of the road surface,” read the court documents published last week.
“The CCTV footage records the speed at about 97km/h. The defendant tried, but was unable to right the truck back to the road pavement.
“The CCTV footage is lost as the truck continued off the side of the road, and rolled before coming to rest. The truck was severly damaged, the load of fresh fruit was destroyed, and the defendant suffered very serious injuries.”
Representing himself at the May hearing, Dowling tried to argue that Blenners failed to ensure that the truck was not overloaded or imbalanced before its departure from Tully.
The employee of Labour Hire Qld at the time also submitted that Blenners failed to supply hands free telephone technology, had contributed to his fatigue by failing to adhere to adequate rest breaks, and failed to fit the truck with operable lane departure warning and prevention technology.
But Judge Morzone found that the plaintiffs did not breach any duties to the defendent.
“I find that none of the matters asserted by the defendant caused or contributed to the crash, and loss and damage.
“I do not accept that any factor other than (Dowling’s) neglect, default or misconduct by using the mobile phone, caused or contributed to the crash.
“(His) use of the mobile phone was illegal.”
Judge Morzone described the case as “unusual” and said while “ordinarily” an employer was vicariously liable for the negligent, wrongful or criminal actions of its employees there was no barrier to a third party suing the employee directly.
Dowling was ordered this month to pay Blenner’s $545,312.25 – assessed as $508,633.25 for the truck damage and another $36,679 for the fruit – plus interest and costs.