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Significant cases and milestones

Workplace Injury Law

Having achieved successful outcomes for more than 70,000 clients in personal injury compensation claims as well as for over 100,000 clients in other areas of the law, the firm's WorkCover practice continues to be its chief focus and one in which it has achieved many important legal milestones.

Landmark cases for compensation for workplace injury in which the firm has acted include:

  • Australia's first award of compensation exceeding $1 million for a workplace injury. The firm acted for a quarry worker who suffered serious injuries at work as a result of an electric shock. A Supreme Court jury awarded the injured worker $1.1 million in damages, the highest ever compensation awarded and first exceeding $1 million at that time (1980);
  • The first individual to successfully obtain a medical tribunal decision on asbestosis was represented by Ryan Carlisle Thomas (1981);
  • The first successful claim for industrial hearing loss was run by our firm.

Ryan Carlisle Thomas was appointed by the High Court of England to manage claims on behalf of Australians and New Zealanders who suffered respiratory disease as a result of the harmful and dangerous working conditions in UK mines. With the firm's representation, thousands of former UK coal miners then residing in Australia and New Zealand were awarded compensation from an $11 billion compensation fund, the largest personal injury fund ever established. 

The firm continues as one of the major plaintiff law practices in the Victorian workers compensation system, representing workers in securing both statutory benefits and common law payments for workplace injury.

Sexual and Institutional Abuse

Ryan Carlisle Thomas has been a pioneer in representing victims of sexual and institutional abuse and is an advocate for the rights of those abused whilst children in care. Since 1989, the firm has assisted over 3,000 clients from across Australia secure justice and compensation for abuse they have suffered, developing what is now one of the largest practices in this area in Australia.

Claims of sexual and institutional abuse have been notoriously difficult to prosecute. RCT was the first law firm to devise and negotiate a Protocol with the State of Victoria for the out-of-court settlement of claims for compensation. This Protocol helped claimants pursue compensation and statements of apology, which could otherwise be strenuously resisted in the courts. The Protocol was adopted by all State Government departments and the Uniting and Anglican Churches, as well as the Salvation Army.

Lump sum payments have also been secured under the various Redress Schemes operating in Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and overseas in Ireland. The firm lobbied hard along with other advocacy groups to establish the landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2013.

The firm's clients also include child migrants or home children who were illegally and forcibly sent from the United Kingdom and Malta to Australia post-World War II and often raised in orphanages and care; and members of the Stolen Generations of Australian aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people who were removed from their families by Australian and State Governments between 1909 and 1969. The firm provides pro bono support to the Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN), an advocacy and support group for people who grew up in the care of orphanages, children's homes and foster care.

Transport Accident Compensation (TAC)

The firm's practice in transport accident compensation law features a number of notable cases including Linsley v Petrie (1998). In this case, the firm argued successfully in the Court of Appeal that a driver who had suffered personal injury as a result of a collision should not be estopped (i.e. precluded) from bringing proceedings for compensation for that injury because litigation with respect to the property damage caused by the accident had already been dealt with by the Magistrates Court, and found to be "an inevitable accident".

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