Global aviation company Hevilift has failed to pay quadriplegic Victorian pilot Bruce Towers $5.6 million in compensation plus legal costs following a helicopter crash, after a judge’s decision was handed down in the Cairns Supreme Court in April.
Hevilift was found to have failed to warn Mr Towers about dangerous flying conditions and provide him with safe flight instruments, causing his helicopter to crash in Papua New Guinea in 2006. Hevilift announced in May they would appeal the decision, while Mr Towers continues to face the uncertainty of not knowing if he will receive the care he needs for the rest of his life.
After the 2006 crash left him unable to walk again and killed three others, Mr Towers fought hard to have his case heard in Australia, winning a Supreme Court trial against Hevilift and an appeal in 2016. He returned to the courts this year to claim millions in damages from the company with the help of Slater and Gordon to cover his quadriplegic injuries, loss of wages and future care.
Slater and Gordon Workers’ Compensation In-house Council Tim Lucey said Hevilift was demonstrating the conduct of a “poor corporate citizen” by ignoring the court judgment to pay Mr Towers the compensation he is owed. Despite its failure to pay the judgment to Mr Towers, Hevilift continues to fly passengers throughout the world, including Australia, he said.
“This has been a 15-year court battle in which Hevilift lost on all fronts. It is disconcerting that Hevilift continues to avoid its responsibilities, willfully ignores the judgment of the court, and offers no reason or excuse for its conduct apart from an appeal which does not stop the payment of the judgment. Instead it only serves to delay the finality of the matter,” Mr Lucey said.
“In the meantime, Bruce has been living in a shed with no money to pay for his significant needs and future medical expenses. To service the aviation sector in Australia, a carrier must be fit and proper under the civil aviation laws. A failure to meet a court judgment must call that into question.”
Mr Towers,70, said he had been seeking justice for more than a decade since the deadly crash took place and he would not be giving up now.
“They’re still not paying me despite a Supreme Court judgment being in my favour,” he said.
“I’ve been through the ringer in relation to two trials and have already faced an appeal from the previous trial four years ago. They have consistently delayed their obligation to pay the compensation.
“It’s still devastating for me. With my medical bills, I’m unable to work and it’s just been a nightmare. They cut you off at the legs each time, they don’t want to pay and yet their buisness is viable. I know they could pay me but they won’t.
“We do everything right by the courts and yet they’re not meeting their legal responsibilities and refuse to pay. I’m feeling empty. It’s hard enough fighting for medical treatment and with COVID-19 around us. Because I haven’t earned anything financially, it’s real kick in the guts and I know they’re just wasting time.”
Hevilift’s appeal stated Mr Tower’s life expectancy should be lowered by four years and for the damages awarded to be reduced to about $4.73 million or less.