Ms Buljat went to a Coles store on 23 September 2017, and she fell after slipping on a grape at the premises. She brought a claim against Coles alleging that it failed to take reasonable precautions against the risk of injury arising as a result of potential slipping hazards on the floor in the area where Ms Buljat fell.

On 18 March 2022, the ACT Supreme Court ruled that Coles had not breached its duty of care to Ms Buljat. Ms Buljat appealed to the ACT Court of Appeal, and that Court allowed the appeal in its judgment handed down on 16 December 2022.

In respect of the alleged breach of duty of care, the case turned on whether a reasonable person in the position of Coles would have taken additional precautions to those actually taken. The evidence suggested that Coles used a ‘clean as you go’ policy during opening hours of the store, which involves staff keeping a lookout for loose items or spillages while performing their ordinary work duties. This system has been considered by many courts, and it has been established that whether that particular system is reasonable depends on the individual circumstances of each case.

In this case, the evidence suggested that grapes were more commonly dropped on the floor than any other item and that they would be dropped in different parts of the store because customers, or their children, would drop them as they ate them while walking through the supermarket. The Court stated that there was no time at which the system required an inspection to be undertaken by staff in any designated area. Coles did not lead any evidence about the effectiveness of this system as a precaution against this particular risk of injury. In the absence of any evidence, the Court concluded that a reasonable person in the position of Coles would have taken additional steps to ensure that particular attention would be paid to the issue of potential slipping hazards on the floor in the area in question. The Court stated that in this case it was necessary for Coles to have some system which required staff to specifically direct their attention to the issue of potential slipping hazards in the area in question not less frequently than once per hour.

The Court went on to conclude that a system of dedicated inspection in fact would have detected a grape or other spill in the area, and therefore the fact that Coles did not have that system in place caused Ms Buljat to fall and suffer injury. As a result, Ms Buljat was awarded $27,309 in damages.

How can we help?

This judgment is an important reminder that the laws relating to common law negligence claims are complicated. Fortunately, the personal injury team at Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers can advise on negligence and other personal injury claims.

If you have been injured and you would like to discuss your entitlements, get in touch with the team at 02 6285 8000 or by email.

[1] Buljat v Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd [2022] ACTCA 71