We thought he was gone: brother of burns victim

Lewis Freer and John ElyGeraldton Guardian

The brother of a burns victim who won a civil case against his former employer has today lauded the verdict, saying there were times his family thought he would not pull through.

“We all put our lives on hold for a few months and there were times where we thought he wasn’t going to make it,” Julian Canny said.

“It was quite difficult.

“We have been dealing with this (for) four years now so it’s good to get a bit of relief with the court case.”

Mitchell Canny was a second-year electrical apprentice with Primepower Engineering in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, when an engine exploded in 2011 during an alcohol-fuelled birthday party for his boss.

Mitchell suffered serious burns in the incident.

Julian said there was still a long way to go with the case and his brother, now living with family in Geraldton, would face a lifetime of recovery.

“Geraldton has been a wonderful place to relocate after Mitch came out of hospital,” he said.

“We can now hopefully look to the future.

“The long wait is now over. We can start moving on with our lives.”

Mitchell was 19 years old when he took part in a birthday celebration for his boss, Primepower Engineering managing director Peter Allan, on November 11, 2011.

Court documents reveal Mr Allan bought 11 kegs of beer for the party, with employees and apprentices drinking from 11am onwards into the early evening.

Finding for Mr Canny in a judgment published this week, District Court Judge Vicki Stewart issued a damning assessment of Mr Allan's conduct.

"The set purpose of the day was a celebration of his birthday," she said.

"He provided free-flowing alcohol to all present including the apprentices working on the engine.

“Mr Allan's conduct was serious. It was more than negligence."

During the revelry, a group of apprentices started a disused diesel engine, and proceeded to spray flammable liquids into the motor's intake in an attempt to make it run harder and fail.

Things went terribly wrong about 7pm, when Mr Canny was holding an open container of petrol and a fireball erupted from the engine, engulfing him in flames.

Mr Canny was left with burns to 60 per cent of his body, requiring years of surgery, physical therapy and ongoing treatment.

In court, Mr Canny alleged that Primepower was liable for damages for negligence and failing to provide a safe work environment, with the company disputing.

Primepower Engineering's insurer Allianz was also involved in the case, claiming it was not liable to cover any damages due to the freely available alcohol and lack of supervision.

Judge Stewart determined in favour of both Mr Canny and Allianz, finding Primepower had failed in its duty to provide a safe working environment.

But she also found that Mr Canny contributed to his own injuries by consuming alcohol and decanting petrol from an open container while another apprentice sprayed a flammable liquid into the engine.

Judge Stewart assessed Mr Canny's contributory negligence at 15 per cent, with Primepower responsible for the rest.

As a result of Primepower's failure to comply with the reasonable precautions, Judge Stewart also found the company was not entitled to indemnity from Allianz.

The total cost of damages awarded has not been revealed.


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