The plaintiff insured, Mr Jones, was born in 1982 and completed his School Certificate in 1998. He left school at the end of year 10. He served an apprenticeship with a roofing contractor which he completed in March 2003, qualifying as a tradesman roof plumber. He subsequently gained a number of additional tickets including Professional Association of Climbing Instructors, asbestos removal, safe work at heights ticket, OHS induction, explosive power tools, and a 20-tonne crane licence.
On 10 December 2002 he suffered a repetitive strain injury of the lower back. He was subsequently diagnosed with a disc prolapse. He underwent a hemi-laminectomy in June 2003 which provided immediate relief.
He returned to work in October 2003 as a roofing supervisor with a reduced but continuing requirement to engage in heavy lifting. He remained in various supervisory roles until he eventually ceased work in late 2011.
Although the operation in June 2003 was successful it did not entirely resolve his complaints. He continued to have pain in his lumbar spine which radiated down the back of his left leg. His symptoms became more troublesome in 2011. Importantly, he also developed a fear-avoidance syndrome.
He ceased working on 10 October 2011 when his employer closed down. Its jobs and employees were transferred to other contractors. However, the plaintiff did not resume work.
The insurer declined the claim because whilst it agreed the plaintiff could not return to his pre-injury tradesman duties, it was not convinced that, based on his restrictions along with his education, training and experience, he would never return to some form of meaningful employment. In this respect the insurer referred to 4 vocational options which did not require retraining and which it considered the plaintiff had the functional capacity to perform, being:
- Retail sales (hardware);
- Courier/delivery driver;
- Console operator; and
- Customer service advisor/telemarketer.