A Rotorua-based logging contractor that failed to ring an ambulance when one of its workers was badly injured has been ordered to pay the former staff member $20,000 in damages.
Murupara man Shaun Hohua was forced to take a private prosecution against Phelan Logging 13 Ltd after WorkSafe's investigation into the case was ruled "out of time".
Hohua, who is in his 50s, won the case in the Rotorua District Court this week and was awarded emotional harm reparation. He is now in negotiations with WorkSafe for compensation.
Phelan Logging 13 Ltd was charged that on May 30, 2016, it failed to ensure adequate systems were in place to deal with medical emergencies.
The charge was brought under the Health and Safety Act and came about after Hohua was told to get in a vehicle following an accident and travel 40km to Rotorua Hospital despite suffering from several broken ribs and a bleeding lung, causing him to be breathless.
Hohua's niece, Samantha Keefe, who is the "authorised agent" dealing with the case on behalf of her uncle, spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post following the court case this week.
"My uncle is a shy and timid man who lacks the confidence to pursue justice for himself. I have taken on this challenge for him with his permission. For us, this is about seeking justice for both my uncle and all forestry workers who put their lives on the line every day.
"Because of having to relive the events suffered from dealing with the several parties involved, it triggers the trauma and is not good for his holistic health and wellbeing."
Keefe said the entire situation had taken a "tremendous toll" on her uncle since the accident two-and-a-half years ago.
They are still in the pursuit of what they believe he was rightfully entitled to.
"We are currently in negotiations with WorkSafe for the fact we have had to take this private prosecution in the first place and until such negotiations are completed we are not willing to divulge any further details, but we are ready to pursue this further and wider if we have to."
A WorkSafe spokeswoman told the Rotorua Daily Post Worksafe had investigated the incident.
"WorkSafe had laid charges in the courts but had to withdraw them as it became apparent that they had not been laid within the statutory time.
"In recognition of this, WorkSafe has offered an ex gratia payment to Mr Hohua."
The spokesman said they were not prepared to discuss details of the ex gratia payment.
"WorkSafe had initially considered the charges to be laid in time. But following representations from the company's solicitors it was accepted that the charges were laid out of time."
Phelan Logging 13 Ltd pleaded guilty in the Rotorua District Court on Wednesday and Judge Greg Hollister-Jones convicted the company and ordered it to pay Hohua $20,000 in three instalments during the next three months, as well as court costs of $130.
Judge Hollister-Jones said the company, which employs five staff members, leased an excavator that worked as a loader and it had a grapple attached to its arm.
On the day of the accident there was a meeting to discuss safety practices and hazards.
Judge Hollister-Jones said the grapple on the arm of the loader struck Hohua and swung him several metres from where he was standing.
It caused him to fall to the ground and he had difficulty breathing and moving.
It was later discovered he suffered several rib fractures and a pulmonary contusion (bruised lung).
He was instructed by his employer to get into a vehicle and be driven to hospital, which was 40km away.
Judge Hollister-Jones said Hohua believed he had no option but to get in the vehicle, despite being in considerable pain. An ambulance was not called.
He was driven to Rotorua Hospital and spent five to six nights there recovering, the court heard.
Judge Hollister-Jones said the failure of the company was not in relation to the accident, but putting him in a vehicle rather than calling an ambulance.
Phelan Logging 13 Ltd's lawyer, Scott Mills, told the judge the company had improved its safety procedures including ensuring an ambulance would always be called first in the event of an accident.
Mills said the company was of limited financial means but had negotiated a payment to Hohua which it was happy to pay in monthly instalments over three months at a rate of two $5000 deposits and one $10,000 deposit.
Judge Hollister-Jones said he was satisfied the payment to Hohua in emotional harm reparation was enough penalty and did not impose a fine.