Talley’s fails in paralysis case
Talley’s Group has failed in a bid to avoid prosecution in a case that left a mother of two teenagers a paraplegic.
Te Atatu Hemi was working at the company’s vegetable processing plant near Ashburton when a crate being moved by forklift fell on her.
That was on May 22, 2015, and on November
20 that year, one day before the time limit for prosecution expired, WorkSafe charged the company with failing to take all practicable steps to avoid injury to her, but did not provide specifics.
Talley’s pleaded not guilty and tried to have the case dismissed, citing defects in the prosecution process. The district court agreed, but WorkSafe went to the Court of Appeal, which has now ruled that those flaws were not serious enough to invalidate the prosecution.
The case highlighted the way WorkSafe would file a holding charge just before the time limit expired, providing details later.
Only if a not guilty plea was entered did WorkSafe instruct an independent expert to prepare a detailed report. In the Talley’s case, this report listed a raft of safety shortcomings.
The appeal court said it seemed WorkSafe’s process appeared to have ‘‘continued unremarked upon by trial courts for some time’’.
WorkSafe had changed its practice, and no suggestion of bad faith existed, the court said.
Hemi said she hoped the prosecution could proceed because she believed it was the best way to ensure change.
She spent three months in Burwood’s spinal unit before returning to Talley’s as a health and safety adviser.
The desk job was a difficult adjustment for the former shearer, and she left after two months.
She still woke up every day wishing she could walk, if only so she could do more with her two grandchildren.
‘‘I really didn’t understand the effect it would have on my family. It wasn’t only me who was sentenced to a chair.’’
WorkSafe declined to comment, saying it had to wait to see if Talley’s would appeal. Talley’s said it had not decided.
Te Atatu Hemi