INXS guitarist Tim Farriss sues boat owner after accident that severed his finger pushed him into “forced retirement”

Tim Farriss
(Image credit: Bob King/Redferns)

Tim Farriss – lead guitarist of now-inactive Australian rock band INXS – is suing the owner of a boat he hired several years ago, saying an accident that occurred while he was aboard pushed him into “forced retirement”. 

During the Australia Day long weekend in 2015, Farriss rented an Omega Clipper 34 houseboat from John Axford to celebrate an anniversary with his wife, Beth.

According to court documents, while anchoring at Akuna Bay, Sydney, Farriss struggled with kinks in the boat's anchor chain, after its foot-controlled deck buttons stopped working.

After receiving instructions on how to rectify the problem via text message, the system began working again, but as Farriss's left hand was still in the mechanism, his ring finger was severed.

Farriss is suing Axford in the New South Wale Supreme Court, claiming negligence and breach of Australian Consumer Law.

“My hand was covered in rust, blood and mud, but I could see one of my fingers had been severed and the others were disfigured, badly lacerated and bleeding,” the 64-year-old recalls in the court documents, adding that he couldn't bring himself to look at his injuries as he was scared he'd faint.

Appearing at a recent court hearing via video link, Farriss was asked by his barrister, Adrian Williams, how he would describe his occupation, to which he replied: “Forced retirement.”

Williams added that while Farriss's finger was reattached, it is now “useless” and the guitarist “cannot play the guitar and he cannot compose in the manner he was accustomed to”.

Farriss's case argues that he should have been provided more instructions, there should have been signs warning of the risk and the equipment should have been better maintained.

But John Turnbull SC, who is representing the defendant, John Axford, says that there was “no doubt” a risk of injury from the machinery, but not to someone “acting reasonably”. 

“At some point, Mr. Farriss must have loosened the winch clutch and stepped on the up button or perhaps the down button, but of course only he knows what happened,” he said.

“Our case is this is a misadventure, sadly, by Mr. Farriss who has undoubtedly been injured as a result of, somehow or another, the chain and his fingers... coming into contact with each other.”

He continues: “A reasonable person, though, had alternative options available. A reasonable person would not have been injured if they had exercised reasonable care.”

The hearing is expected to last for the remainder of the week.

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Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar (opens in new tab).