Sometimes when someone slips and falls there is nothing or no one to blame.
However, in some circumstances, the slip or trip has been caused by someone else’s negligence.
If you have been involved in a slip or trip and fall incident you may be able to claim compensation for your injuries.
Personal Injury sustained in the supermarket
Supermarkets and shopping centres can be dangerous places when it comes to slip and fall incidents.
A routine outing to the supermarket can result in significant injury when someone slips and falls.
Potential slip & personal injury hazards in the supermarket include:
- Loose grapes on the floor
- Dropped lettuce leaves
- Fritz and other cold meats
- Spilled sugar
- Ice from freezer products
- Spilled liquids
What to do if you have sustained personal injury from a slip and fall
If you find yourself flat on the floor having slipped on a loose grape or a pool of liquid there are some important things to consider, including:
- Where in the store did you fall?
- What time of day did you fall?
- What was the cause of your fall?
- Was the object (or liquid) that caused your fall obvious or visible to other shoppers?
- Were there any warning signs alerting you to the hazard?
- What colour was the floor?
- What colour was the object (or liquid)?
- Did you notice anything else about the object (or liquid)?
- Did the object (or liquid) appear to have been on the floor for a period of time?
In addition to ensuring that you obtain adequate treatment for your injuries, if possible, you should also take photos of the area where you fell as it will be useful evidence later on.
You should also report the fall to a manager immediately and insist that a formal incident report be completed and a copy provided to you. You should also ask whether the incident was captured on CCTV footage and whether there was anyone who witnessed you fall.
Will I be successful?
In order to be successful, you must be able to identify what caused your injury. What was it that you slipped or tripped on and how did the slip or trip occur?
You must also show that the supermarket was negligent. Did it have an adequate system of cleaning in place? Did it regularly inspect the area where you fell?
However, simply showing that there was something on the floor that you slipped or tripped on is not enough to establish a successful claim.
You must also prove that whatever it was had been on the floor for a long enough period of time such that the supermarket should have taken steps to remove it, or to place warning or hazard signs in the area or otherwise cordon off the area.
Generally speaking, the law recognises that it is unreasonable to expect supermarkets to maintain a spotless, hazard free environment. That would place a burden on supermarkets that is too onerous.
But when there is a hazard on the floor, it is expected that supermarkets will identify the hazard within a reasonable period of time and take action to warn, cordon off, reduce, remove or eliminate that hazard.
The issue that is often considered by the Courts is how long is a ‘reasonable period of time’?
This was considered in the 2012 High Court decision of Strong v Woolworths. Mrs Strong slipped and fell on a chip lying on the floor of an area occupied by Woolworths.
Mrs Strong’s claim was ultimately successful. While the High Court could not draw an inference as to when the chip had been dropped, the Court concluded that it was more probable than not that Woolworths’ failure to employ a system of periodic inspection and cleaning was a necessary condition of her fall.
The Court found that the chip was probably dropped between 8.00am and 12.10pm. It also found that had Woolworths employed a system of periodic inspection and cleaning during that period, it is likely that the chip would have been detected and removed before Mrs Strong approached the area.
Therefore, the Court found Woolworths negligent and liable for Mrs Strong’s injuries.
However, plaintiffs are not always successful in slip and fall claims which is clearly shown by the recent NSW Court of Appeal decision of Woolworths v McQuillan.
McQuillan slipped and fell on a grape that was on the floor in Woolworths shortly after the store opened for trade.
The NSW Court of Appeal held that Woolworths’ failure to observe the grape on the floor did not constitute a causal act of negligence.
The majority found that keeping a “proper lookout” for hazards did not mean a “perfect lookout” and that Woolworths’ systems of inspection and cleaning were sufficient that it did not breach any duty of care.
Personal Injury that arise from a slip or trip in a public place can have significant consequences on an individual’s life. Such claims usually involve detailed considerations of whether the occupier of the public place is liable. It is therefore important that you obtain legal advice promptly.