ACT residents often contact us because they’ve suffered an injury after slipping or falling, for example, in a supermarket. In this article, Richard Faulks, Managing Director at Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, discusses some of the reasons why not every slip or fall in a supermarket gives rise to a successful compensation claim.
Slips and falls
Slip or falls are usually a result of something on the floor, such as water. Often, accident victims want to seek compensation for their injuries. However, that is not always possible. For a successful claim, the injured person must prove that the shop owner, or cleaner, owed a duty of care. Next, they need to establish that the owner or cleaner breached their duty of care. Finally, they must show that any breach of that duty caused the injury.
The owner, occupier or contractor associated with the space – the responsible party – must have a relevant risk-management system in place. This system must demonstrate that take reasonable precautions to avoid foreseeable risks. This is particularly relevant in places like supermarkets, where substances are more likely to be spilt. However, this requirement is not an absolute obligation. Generally, the responsible party must show that they have an inspection system in place and that they complied with it. But it is also clear that, if the responsible party followed the inspection system, they don’t need to guarantee that there is no hazard that might cause injury. Their obligation is only to take reasonable precautions.
A recent case
A decision of the NSW Court of Appeal (Argo Managing Agency Ltd v LAL Kammessy  NSWCA 176) reinforced this very issue. The judge found that the cleaners looking after the area where the injury occurred were negligent. This was based on the evidence that they hadn’t detected and remove the liquid that was on the floor. The evidence was that there was an inspection system in place, but the cleaner carrying out the inspection didn’t see the liquid that caused the injury.
On appeal, the majority of the Court of Appeal found that there was no negligence. The defendant had a proper and adequate system in place to detect spillages of the sort involved. Although the employee missed something during the inspection, this wasn’t negligence as the company exercised a reasonable level of care.
This case shows that in every slip and fall case, it’s important to determine if the inspection system was adequate. Relying on a momentary lapse when a particular hazard is not identified is less likely to lead to a successful claim. It will be essential to gather all available evidence, including CCTV footage, to try to establish that the system implemented was not reasonable.
How can Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers help you?
If you were injured after a slip or fall, we can help you determine if there was negligence and if you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Snedden Hall & Gallop today on (02) 6285 8000 or by email. You can find out more about our Personal Injury team here.