Compensation for Sydney Bunnings shopper who slipped on spilt tomato sauce

Published 24 Oct 2016

Our client, a middle aged man, had attended an inner Sydney Bunnings store for the purpose of undertaking some shopping one Saturday morning.

As he proceeded to enter the store, unbeknown to him, near the entrance of the store there had been spillage of some tomato sauce which resulted in him slipping and significantly jarring his knee.  At the time of the accident, there were the usual Bunnings employees in attendance at the entrance of the store and it was our submission to them and their legal team, that their staff should have realised that there was a spillage of sauce on the floor and should have either cleaned it up or placed suitable warning signs in the area or in fact cordoned it off.

It was clear that the sauce had spilt from such a sandwich onto the floor and was not cleaned up.  Bunnings and other department stores who allow food to be entered into the premises and/or eaten whilst people are undertaking shopping, are under a high duty of care to ensure that they have systems in place to clean up spillages.  In this particular instance, the spillage was arguably right under the nose of the Bunnings employees.

Our client, who had already suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, significantly aggravated the injury to his knee which led him to be off work for a significant period of time.

When we first saw our client we obtained detailed instructions from him and formed the view that there was a reasonable case against the Bunnings store on the basis that they had failed in their duty of care to him and customers generally.

We proceeded to obtain a detailed statement from our client, attended the scene to obtain photographs and also qualified an expert on occupational health and safety to prepare a report.  After receiving material on liability, we then proceeded to prepare the case in terms of obtaining medical evidence in support of the injury that our client sustained.

We obtained and reviewed the Claimant’s medical history from his treating doctors and arranged for our own independent medical assessment.

Without wasting further time, we provided Bunnings and their legal representatives with all the information and commenced proceedings.  Initially, Bunnings and their claims managers were reluctant to enter into settlement negotiations, notwithstanding the fact that we had indicated to them that we were prepared to try to resolve the matter at an early stage so as not to incur unnecessary costs.  After further discussions, we were finally able to convince the defendant of the practical course and proceed to have a settlement conference.  At the settlement conference we advised our client of his entitlements and provided him with advice as to what we believed was a reasonable range to settle his claim.  Our client accepted the advice and we proceeded to negotiate and settle the claim for a fair and reasonable amount without the need to go to Court and incur unnecessary legal expenses.

As this was a public liability claim, we were entitled to claim for his pain and suffering referred to as non-economic loss, past wage loss and an allowance by way of a general buffer for future wage loss and a general allowance for his past and future medical expenses.  In the circumstances, the settlement was very reasonable and fair which the client was happy with.

Gerard Malouf & Partners prides itself on its ability to evaluate liability issues, especially in public liability claims and advise our clients as to whether we believe there is a reasonable case to pursue without taking unnecessary and unreasonable risks.  In all public liability cases, the first step in the process is to ensure that we are able to show that the defendant breached their duty of care and that they were negligent.  Once this aspect of the claim has been established it becomes very straightforward to proceed with the claim with a view of trying to resolve it without the need to go to Court and incur unnecessary legal costs.

Should you have been involved in an accident in a public place, supermarket or department store and believe that the defendant failed in their duty of care, and as a resulted in you sustaining injuries, it is important to ensure that you contact the specialised team at Gerard Malouf & Partners to assist you and advise you as regards to pursuing a claim.