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 In Public Liability
Slip and fall injuries. Can I sue the business?

While the recent furore about Bunnings ordering that the onion go below the sausage highlighted the issue of potential slips and falls in stores and other public places, in reality there are hazards in stores that are more dangerous to customers than the humble sausage in bread. But if I’m injured from a slip or fall, can I sue?

Large stores are often a hive of activity and the moving of merchandise, busy staff and eager and distracted customers can create a perfect storm for trips and falls that cause injury to employees and customers.

Generally, companies have a duty to provide safe environments for their customers and can be responsible (via their insurers) for compensating injured shoppers if they breach their legal duties.

Does the injured person have a responsibility to take reasonable care too?

People often say – “shouldn’t people look out for where they are going?” and the answer is, absolutely they should. The courts, when reviewing claims for compensation will look at the ‘common sense’ of the injured person at the time of the incident. On the other hand, we have all seen situations where slipping hazards lay in wait for customers, in stores that are designed to distract them with products, signs and adverts.

That doesn’t necessarily mean though, that a shop is responsible for every injury that occurs in their stores.

In Victoria, you cannot claim compensation for pain and suffering following a fall in a store or other public place unless you have sustained a permanent significant injury (this threshold is different if you are working or on a work break when you fall).

Whether a customer can sue a business for the injuries that follow their fall can depend on:

  1.  who caused the hazard;
  2. whether the customer was taking reasonable care for their own safety;
  3. whether the store staff missed the opportunity to detect and remove the hazard (eg with routine cleaning and inspection); and
  4. whether the customer has sustained injuries.

Here we list the common customer slip and fall “Hot Spots” :

  • Lettuce, and other fresh vegetables in supermarket
  • Leaking water from supermarket fridges and freezers
  • Shopping trollies (especially when two or more are connected together)
  • Coat hangers in large department stores
  • Spilled drinks, hot chips, hot coffee and other food in shopping malls and food courts*

What if I’m injured in a public carpark?

Perhaps the most dangerous place for shoppers isn’t in the store at all. Injuries caused by drivers in the carpark are by far the most common enquiries that we receive in relation to injured customers.

For those people, the TAC is generally who pays compensation and benefits to the injured person.

If you’ve had a fall or been hit in a supermarket, shop, carpark or other public place and you’ve suffered an injury as a result, give us a call to determine if you have an eligible claim.

Today’s article is written by Principal at Polaris Lawyers, Nick Mann.

*In 2012 the High Court spent many weeks considering how long a hot chip had been on the ground before a customer slipped and hurt themselves.

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