Nursing Nightmares: Escaping Patients and the Danger Dash

Ask anyone who has ever worked in a hospital and they’ll tell you that things can get real messy, real quick. Luckily, a recent Queensland court decision, State of Queensland v Ringuet [1], has enshrined further protection for healthcare workers who work with violent and uncooperative patients.

The Incident

Whilst entering the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), the plaintiff, Ms Ringuet, encountered a young male patient trying to escape the ward. Upon seeing her enter the ward, the patient rushed over to the doorway that Ms Ringuet was walking through and began to try force his way through.

To prevent his escape, Ms. Ringuet held the door shut that he was trying to get through. Eventually help was called for and the patient was subdued, but not before Ms Ringuet sustained a back injury and a secondary psychological injury.

Importantly, the patient had a history of attempting to escape from the hospital in the days leading up to the incident.

The Decision

The District Court accepted that the State of Queensland was negligent for failing to implement a system of work that would allow nurses in a situation like Ms. Ringuet’s to request assistance from a security officer before opening the door[2].

On appeal, the State of Queensland said that this system would be impractical and costly.

In a win for nurses, hospital staff, disability support workers, and everyone that works in “high risk” areas like healthcare, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected these arguments.

The Court held that the proposed system would not be excessively costly or problematic, would have been beneficial to the safety of the ward’s employees, and would have been reasonable in the circumstances.


Ultimately, Ms Ringuet’s case ensures that employers must implement adequate safety measures to protect employees when dealing with challenging patients, especially when the history of those patients is known.

WorkCover Claims

At Claimwise our mission is to help you save money on your legal fees. By starting your WorkCover claim with a traditional ‘No Win, No Fee’ law firm your total legal fees can end up being $10,000 or more higher than by using us.

If you or someone you know has been injured at work in Queensland and want to keep your legal costs down, feel free to get in touch with us.

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[1] [2020] QCA 61

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