Liability for Falls in Public Places
The 2012 the High Court handed down a decision which continues to affect public liability claims associated with falls in public places.
The case of Strong v Woolworths found Woolworths liable for compensation damages to Kathryn Strong (the Plaintiff) at a Big W store at Taree.
In September 2004 the Plaintiff, a below knee right leg amputee, was walking with the aid of crutches in an area where Big W conducted sidewalk sales. The tip of her right crutch slipped on a chip left on the floor’ causing her to fall and sustain a serious spinal injury.
NSW law requires an occupier of premises to take reasonable care for the safety of persons who enter their premises. This includes adequate cleaning.
The Plaintiff brought proceedings against Woolworths in the District Court claiming damages for negligence. The District Court found in favour of the Plaintiff against Woolworths, awarding her $580,299.12.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal ruled the Plaintiff had failed to prove that Woolworths' negligence was the cause of her injury. Accordingly, the District Court Judgment was set aside and the proceedings were dismissed.
The Plaintiff appealed to the High Court, which dealt with the frequent difficulty in slip and fall cases of establishing a connection between the lack of an adequate cleaning system and the Plaintiff's injury.
The sidewalk sales area had not been inspected in the 4½ hours between the time the area was set up for the day's trading and the time of the Plaintiff's fall. It was found that Woolworths did not have an adequate system of cleaning.
Accordingly, the High Court found that it was an error for the Court of Appeal to hold that it could not be concluded on the balance of probability that the chip had been on the ground for long enough for it to be detected and removed by a reasonable cleaning system.
This case is important to public liability issues concerning public place falls in that the High Court agreed that shopping centres and stores should have in place a reasonable inspection and cleaning system that would detect and remove hazards that would cause injury within a reasonable time frame.
This case is relevant to bear in mind in situations where accidents occur in public places such as shopping centres and supermarkets.
When claiming damages for negligent conduct by another, the law requires you establish a causal link between the injury and the act or admission of the other person.
If you, your family or friends wish to enquire about a similar circumstance, please email us on our "Ask Us a Question" feature or call (02) 4228 8288 to speak to one of our specialist compensation lawyers.