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Personal Injury – Woolworths Not Liable for $150k Grape Slip

Woolworths Ltd v McQuillan [2017] NSWCA 202 is an important development for slip and fall claims. In this case, the Court of Appeal has provided further guidance as to what is considered a “reasonable” system of inspection and cleaning by occupiers.

Background

  • Miss McQuillan (the plantiff) was injured when she slipped and fell on a grape in the produce section of a Woolworths store in Leichardt, six minutes after the store opened.
  • Miss McQuillan commenced proceedings against Woolworths in the District Court of NSW.
  • Woolworths argued that they had a system of cleaning and inspection in place, whereby the store was routinely cleaned and staff were trained to identify and clean hazards on the floor. The trial judge found this system to be adequate.
  • However, the Judge found that the presence of the grape on the floor arose from the activities of staff in the produce area and that staff ‘overlooked’ the grape during the busy store opening period.
  • Miss McQuillian’s claim was successful and she was awarded $151,000 plus costs.

Woolworths appealed
Decision

  • The Court of Appeal had to consider whether a reasonable person in Woolworth’s position would have undertaken greater precautions.
  • The Court of Appeal accepted that Woolworths had an adequate system in place, and found that the system could not be expected to be perfect.
  • It was accepted that staff visually scanning for hazards on the floor could be reasonably impeded by many factors. Impediments from physical objects and distractions from the nature of other duties performed “does not mean that staff have not kept a proper lookout”.
  • Accordingly, the Court found that staff members’ failure to notice a single grape on the floor did not constitute a casual act of negligence.
  • The Court of Appeal held that Woolworths had not been negligent and the plaintiff was ordered to pay Woolworths’ costs.

What does this case mean for your slip and fall claim?
In establishing negligence against an occupier like Woolworths as a result of a slip and fall, the occupier’s system of inspection only needs to be reasonable, not perfect. Consequently, staff failing to spot an item on the floor may not be enough to establish negligence in itself if the cleaning system is reasonable on the whole.
If you or someone you know have been injured as a result of a slip and fall, you should seek advice from a personal injury lawyer about your rights to claim compensation. Our Personal Injury Lawyers can provide practical solutions and exceptional results in relation to your compensation claim on a No Win, No Fee basis. Call 1300 773 529 or email a Personal Injury lawyer at info@matthewsfolbigg.com.au We can then arrange an initial telephone conference to discuss.

Matthews Folbigg has over 50 years’ experience protecting personal injury and compensation rights of people living in Parramatta and the Hills