Cattle in the yards at CQLX Gracemere.
Cattle in the yards at CQLX Gracemere. Geordi Offord

$1.5m claim for injury caused by sick cow at saleyards

A SICK cow transported from Clermont to Gracemere caused a truck driver such injuries he is now seeking $1.5m in damages from his employer.

Bruce William Collins, 59, is seeking $1,576,821 in damages after a sick cow in the back of a trailer fell on top of his left leg during attempts to unload it at CQLX Saleyards at Gracemere on June 18, 2014.

Mr Collins, who lives in Roma, drove a truck with two trailers carrying cattle to Gracemere saleyards from Clermont on June 18, 2014, for Fraser and Sons Pty Ltd - the defendants in the claim filed in the Supreme Court of Rockhampton on February 8.

According to the documents, on the day of the accident, 20 cows at the Clermont Saleyards that were meant to be loaded on to trucks for Fraser and Sons to be taken to an abattoir near Dinmore were showing signs of sickness and considered them to be unfit to be loaded.

The cattle were loaded into six B-double trucks, including one driven by Mr Collins, who was employed as a Depot Manager and was sometimes required to drive cattle trucks.

Stops were made between Clermont and Dinmore, including at Emerald, Duaringa and Gracemere.

When Mr Collins did a welfare check at Emerald, he noticed two cows out of 12 located in the front trailer were lying down in the sitting position with their legs tucked underneath.

He gave them a tap on the nose with a piece of plastic pipe with both cows getting to their feet immediately.

Two hours later at Duaringa, Mr Collins performed another welfare check and saw one of the two cows was again lying down in the sitting position and "noticed the downed cow was becoming docile and that other cows were standing over the top of the downed cow".

Mr Collins tapped the cow with the plastic pipe multiple times before it stood up and he reported the downed cow to the Gracemere Depot Manager over the phone who advised he would not be available to look at the cow when it arrived at Gracemere.

Mr Collins and another truck driver employed by Fraser and Sons, Brenton Elliot, continued the journey together and arrived at Gracemere about 3pm.

The downed cow was lying on her side by this time and Mr Collins decided if she was left in the trailer, she would likely die during the remainder of the journey and/or cause injury to other cattle.

The truck was parked beside the unloading race and the other 11 cows were unloaded from the trailer.

Mr Elliot, a Gracemere salesyard man and Mr Collins entered the front trailer and attempted to get the downed cow standing so she could be unloaded.

Mr Collins manually repositioned the cow's legs to make it easier for her to stand. Mr Elliot, the salesyard man and Mr Collins attempted to roll the cow over but were unsuccessful.

Mr Collins then gave the cow a tap with an electric prod and the downed cow made "a big effort to stand" and "threw her head back doing so", hitting Mr Collins in the left thigh, causing him to be knocked to the floor.

The sick cow then managed a half-standing position before she fell back to the floor, rolled on her side and landed on Mr Collins' leg.

He felt a tearing sensation followed by a sharp in his left knee.

The other two men assisted Mr Collins who then made the decision to destroy the cow, which was carried out by the salesyard man with his rifle.

Mr Collins reported the incident to his employer before continuing the journey to Dinmore with the 11 cows reloaded into the front trailer.

When he arrived at Dinmore, he contacted his employer again and advised he was unable to continue driving the truck and required someone to drive him home.

A month later, Mr Collins knee gave way as he climbed stairs and he fell back to the ground at the bottom of the stairs.

He sustained a left knee injury, right ankle injury, surgical scarring to the left knee and psychological issues. He is now cared for by his partner including requiring assistance in dressing.

Mr Collins will need knee replacement surgery and revisionary surgery in the future.

Mr Collins claims that defendant Fraser and Sons Pty Ltd "ought to have known that during the course of transporting via truck, cattle, on occasions, would be too unwell unwell or weak to get up and out of the trailer on their own accord".

He claims he was not provided instruction or training on how to deal with such situations by his employer, including "not to enter the trailer of a truck that contained an unwell cow" and "not to use a jigger (an electric shock) on an unwell cow in the trailer of a truck whilst standing in the trailer alongside the unwell cow".

Mr Collins claims he was told by his employer that he was responsible for making the decision as to whether an animal he was transporting was to be destroyed and that it "was to be a last resort, and he was to take all steps available to him to try and save the animal before ordering its destruction".

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