Cannabis indulging surfer awarded over $400,000 in damages

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The Queensland Supreme Court on 11 March 2016 awarded Mr Schneider $447,969.94 in damages. Mr Schneider was injured in a motorcycle accident on 9 March 2010. Mr Schneider suffered multiple serious injuries in the accident, however at the time of the trial the dominant and lasting injury was a psychiatric condition. Complicating the court’s assessment was Mr Schneider’s history of cannabis use. Mr Schneider conceded that he was a user of cannabis both before and after the accident, more so after, until about 2 years prior to the trial when he ceased his cannabis use entirely. Further complicating the matter was Mr Schneider’s expressed views that:

… what most people did by working 40 hours a week for most of their life was a waste of time, and was simply serving the interest of corrupt societal institutions.

Mr Schneider found greater meaning in his surfing.

At the time of the accident in 2010 Mr Schneider had gained employment on a full time basis with Queensland Health, however the role was a temporary one. Mr Schneider was pursuing a permanent position but had not attained one at the time of the accident. Mr Schneider resigned from Queensland Health approximately 18 months after the accident, and had not worked since. The CTP insurer alleged that Mr Schneider was not a "witness of credit" because despite a request by the CTP insurer’s psychiatrist, Mr Schneider did not take a drug test until 57 days after the initial request, sufficient time to allow any residual cannabis in his body to dissipate. The Trial Judge held that at the very least Mr Schneider was an "unreliable reporter".

Mr Schneider alleged that he had used cannabis since he left school at age 17, used it sporadically and on a recreational basis, however had not used cannabis for about 3 to 4 months immediately prior to the accident, and then stopped using cannabis after attending upon an ATODS counsellor about 2 years before the trial. The CTP insurer argued that an inference should be drawn that Mr Schneider’s smoking was at a level of 2 – 10 cones per day effectively since he was 17 years old, and that he had not given up smoking cannabis as he had claimed.

The Trial Judge held that if Mr Schneider’s quitting of his employment was because of his use of illicit drugs, then the CTP insurer was not liable for the consequences of that decision. The Trial Judge found that Mr Schneider did not have a psychiatric condition at the time of his resignation, and his resignation was therefore not the result of a psychiatrist condition. The Trial Judge however found that the evidence established that Mr Schneider had developed a psychiatric condition since the accident and the accident was a material cause of that condition.

Mr Schneider was awarded $33,500.00 for income lost since the accident and $291,500.00 for the income that Mr Schneider will lose in the future as a result of the psychiatric condition sustained as a result of the injuries in the accident.

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