Nurse awarded damages after patient assault

A FORMER Emergency Department nurse who was assaulted by a patient has been awarded more than $350,000 in damages.

Lance Armstrong-Waters, of Babinda, last year sued the State for lost earnings since the January 2014 incident, which he alleged resulted in shoulder and knee injuries and PTSD.

The nurse was assaulted after he repeatedly removed blankets covering two men waiting in the ED.

"This traumatic assault, coupled with the lack of support from his employer, has caused Lance to suffer psychological injuries, including PTSD, which has changed his life forever," a spokesman for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said.

"His nursing registration has been suspended through APRHA because of his injury and Lance has not returned to work, despite consistently working in the medical profession as either a nurse or a medic for the majority of his working life - over 30 years."

Former Cairns Hospital ED nurse Lance Armstrong-Waters.
Former Cairns Hospital ED nurse Lance Armstrong-Waters.

Mr Armstrong-Waters was on duty in the ED at Cairns Hospital in 2014 when he was attacked by the patient.

CCTV played for Cairns District Court showed the nurse restrain the man and escort him from the department.

In his findings, Judge Dean Morzone said he accepted "the plaintiff did momentarily fear for his life and was forced to legitimately defend himself quickly, instinctively and effectively, apparently employing the restraint hold in accordance with his aggressive behaviour management training."

The court heard Mr Armstrong-Waters suffered from long term orthopaedic and psychiatric injuries as a result of the incident, including anxiety and PTSD.

Although Judge Morzone found Mr Armstrong-Waters had "showed his disdain toward the patient by poorly communicating, (and) being overtly hostile," he ruled the defendant had breached its duty of care "to take precautions by failing to provide staff with refresher training in aggressive behaviour management and by failing to identify and train personnel to undertake timely post incident management."

Judge Morzone found that the plaintiff's PTSD had been aggravated by being reprimanded or accused by his supervisors of acting inappropriately.

"The defendant is liable to the plaintiff for breaching its duty to take precautions against a relevant risk and thereby caused his physical and psychiatric injuries," he wrote.

He awarded Mr Armstrong-Waters $357,073.49 in damages plus costs.

Originally published as Nurse awarded damages after patient assault