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Anglican Church Grammar School sued by two mothers over 2008 Ascot balcony collapse

by:Sophie Elsworth
From:The Courier-Mail
May 18, 2012 12:00AM

TWO Queensland mothers injured during a fatal balcony collapse are suing one of Brisbane’s elite private schools.

Anne Elizabeth Gillespie, 47, and Melinda Shirley Gaudion, 51, lodged civil suits in the Brisbane District Court this month for damages totalling more than $600,000.

It is the latest move in a long series of events that spiralled out of what was to be a joyous end-of-year lunch party for mothers of the Anglican Church Grammar School’s Year 12 class of 2008.

The women had gathered on a warm November day at the Ascot home of Belinda Biggs, mother of the school’s head boy. But 15 minutes into the event, the home’s veranda gave way.

About 20 women plunged 3m to the ground in a tangle of metal, wood and glass. At least 16 were taken to hospital with injuries ranging from moderate to critical – there were broken legs, a shattered pelvis and a report of a broken back.

Talented architect Annette Lee Spencer died from her injuries.

The event triggered a coroner’s inquest and multiple legal actions.

In the claim filed this month the two woman are also suing Mrs Biggs.

In the court documents Ms Gaudion and Ms Gillespie outlined their own injuries.

Ms Gillespie lists injuries to her cervical spine, right shoulder and jaw, acute vertigo, mild head injury with concussion, bruising and shock.

In the documents she also claims she has suffered chronic adjustment disorder with post-traumatic stress features and post-concussional disorder and is seeking damages of $346,189.

Ms Gaudion’s claim says she suffered a left foot injury including a mid-foot fracture dislocation, right ankle injury, bruising and shock.

It says she suffered from chronic adjustment disorder and mixed features of depression and post-traumatic stress. She is seeking damages totalling $270,097.

The women claim they received a written invitation by Churchie and each paid $40 to attend the function at the Upper Lancaster Rd property.

In the claim it states it was an implied term of the agreement that “reasonable care would be exercised, by a reasonable inspection being undertaken by a person competent to so do, namely a registered builder or building inspector, and reported on, before the school function, such as to reasonably conclude that the location for the function, namely the veranda of the dwelling, was safe for a group of 30 to 40 persons to congregate”.

The documents claim no inspection was “undertaken by or at the direction of Churchie and/or the school”.

The documents state both women are taking legal against against Shaun Duignan, a carpenter who worked on the house in late 2001 or early 2002.

They are also suing Australian Building Inspection Service Pty Ltd, which completed an inspection of the dwelling when Mrs Biggs bought the home in April 2005.

Mrs Biggs last year lodged documents in the Brisbane Supreme Court for damages totalling more than $750,000 against Australian Building Inspection Service.

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