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The Shopper who Slipped: Duties and Damages

shopperYou go shopping and as you walk down a supermarket aisle you slip on a wet and slippery patch of floor, injuring yourself.  Do you have a claim against the store for your damages?

You do indeed, but only if you can show that the store and its employees were negligent.   In a case recently decided by the Supreme Court of Appeal, a shopper sued a store for her injuries after she slipped on a section of floor left damp by a cleaner who had mopped the floor in a routine cleaning operation during a busy period in the store.  Importantly, although there was a pertinent warning sign, it was beyond the point where she fell.

Our courts have confirmed in many cases that the owner of a store has a legal duty to ensure that its premises are safe for those who use them.  It must therefore take steps to minimise or eliminate the risk of harm posed by any potential hazard.  And in the circumstances of this particular case, held the Court, the cleaner had been negligent in not ensuring, after mopping the floor, that it was dry and safe.

Shoppers – your damages claim

If you are injured in a store and think the store is at fault, take advice straight away on claiming for your damages.

Store owners – a checklist

  • If you employ an independent cleaning contractor, do so under a written contract (checked by your attorney before signature) so you can prove it.  In this case the store tried to transfer all the liability onto a cleaning company but failed to produce proof of an “independent contractor” relationship.
  • Check that your insurance cover against this sort of claim is adequate.

Enforce in-store procedures to deal not only with accidental spillages but also with “voluntary” tasks like the “routine cleaning” that caused the accident in this case.

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