Compensation for Tenant in a slip and fall at a Wahroonga Apartment Complex

Published 28 Nov 2016

Christmas Night December 2013 our client was a tenant at a premises which was an apartment complex in Wahroonga being a suburb on the Upper North Shore , Sydney.

The owners of the apartment complex had the care, management and control of the premises. They owed our client and all visitors and tenants a duty of care to exercise reasonable care for the safety whilst on the premises.

Late Christmas evening our client had driven her vehicle into the garage of the premises. It was raining heavily at the time. She parked her car and proceeded to walk toward the elevator in the garage. The garage had a tendency to be wet and flooded especially during the heavy rain.

Our client entered the lift and proceeded to the ground floor. When she stepped out of the elevator onto the tiles of the foyer on the ground floor she slipped and fell awkwardly and landed heavily on the ground. Our client slipped as a result of water being on the tiles and/or on her shoes and the tiles being slippery.

The owners of the premises knew that the tiles of the foyer were slippery when wet. Prior to our client’s fall complaints were made to the owners of the premises and to the effect that the tiles used in the foyer and walkways were slippery when wet. It was alleged that the owners did nothing about this and therefore a risk of harm that existed at the time of the accident materialised.

The risk was that legal entrants, tenants and visitors to the premises being injured as a result of slipping on tiles when they became wet as a result of people walking water over them, including as a result of walking water onto the tiles due to the garage flooding.

It was because of this it was alleged that the risk of injury was foreseeable and not insignificant and that the owners of the apartment complex failed to take reasonable care to prevent the risk of harm from eventuating.

We launched legal proceedings against the owner of the premises and some of the allegations included their failure to ensure that the foyer to the premises was safe, failing to provide a suitable flooring in the foyer area, failure to adequately cover the tiled foyer area with non-slip mats, failure to ensure the tiles were adequately slip resistant, failure to ensure the garage did not flood, failure to ensure the garage had adequate drainage, failing to respond reasonably to previous complaints about the slipperiness of the tiles and failed to replace tiles with safer tiles.

The Defendant filed a Defence denying that it owed our client a duty of care, denied all of the particulars of negligence and then pleaded contributory negligence on the part of our client in alleging that she failed to take care for her safety in all the circumstances.

In relation to the particulars of negligence, these were all denied by our client and would have been refuted at a future Hearing of the matter. In our view, none of them had any substance considering that there was previous complaints about the tiles and the slipperiness of the tiles in the foyer area of the apartment complex.

The owners of the premises had plenty of time and opportunity to rectify these matters not only for the safety of our client who was a tenant of the apartment complex but also to other visitors to the premises.

In order to refute the defence we arranged for a consulting engineer to attend the apartment complex for the purposes of a view and to undertake the appropriate slip testings of the tiled foyer area for liability purposes. There were photos that were provided which clearly showed that the garage in the apartment complex area was prone to remaining wet and flooding without suitable drainage. After the liability expert engineer undertook the testing to the floor surface when wet and established that the condition of the floor surface to the risk of slipping when wet falls within the range classified as “very high”.

The liability expert report outlined in concise and clear terms that the accident could have been prevented by coating the surface of the floor with a material that increases slip resistance, placement of rubber backed mats at the entrance to the building, installing a proper floor surface with a co-efficient of friction sufficiently hired to aid in slip prevent and placing warning signs advising of the hazardous nature of the floor surface. All in all the liability expert report found that the primary cause of our client’s injury was the failure to provide a safe means of access to all areas of the apartment complex and in particular, the foyer area where our client slipped and fell and suffered her serious injuries.

As a result of the fall our client suffered significant injuries to her right ankle, right knee and left knee. The x-ray evidence revealed a tear in the right knee and therefore she underwent an operation to the right knee at Royal North Shore Hospital. She also developed consequently symptoms with her lower back due to her altered gait and ongoing left and right knee problems. The doctors and specialists had indicated that she would require further surgery to her knees in the future.

She had some time off work and was required to use her work leave entitlements until she was able to return to her pre-injury employment duties. There was a significant loss of enjoyment of life and a reduced capacity to participate in normal social, domestic, recreational, sporting and employment activities.

The doctors had agreed that she had suffered permanent impairment and incapacity as a result of her left knee, right knee, lower back and the emotional effects of the accident which would impede her ability to live a normal life.

The defendant’s insurer arranged for our client to be medically examined and assessed including a home based assessment with respect to her incapacity in undertaking her domestic duties. Those assessments were available to the parties.

The court listed the matter for hearing and ordered that the parties attend to a mediation settlement conference to canvas the liability and medical issues and also to consider the possibilities of a settlement of the claim out of court. After a lengthy informal settlement conference between the parties, the claim was settled and our client was awarded significant compensation with respect to her injuries, losses and damage.

The substantial award of compensation in favour of our client for her injuries and disabilities was exclusive of legal costs. It was a very pleasing outcome considering the denials of liability and the defence filed by the owners of the apartment complex.

Conclusion:-

If you have suffered an injury such as our client whether you are a visitor or a tenant at an apartment complex or any premises, you may have a claim against the owner and/or occupiers of the premises in negligence that have caused you injury.

In this particular case our client was able to establish negligence against the owners of the apartment complex as a result of the slipperiness of the tiles in the foyer area, the lack of adequate drainage in the garage area which caused it to floor, failure to take appropriate precautions to avoid the risk of injury in such circumstances as occurred with our client on Christmas Night in December 2013.

The owners and occupiers of apartment complexes have a duty of care to their tenants and visitors to the premises to take reasonable care to prevent a risk of injury that is clearly foreseeable and that could have been avoided by reasonable care and precautions on their part. A failure to do so may result in a claim being brought against them in negligence for proper and just compensation for injuries and disabilities arising from any such accident.

In this case our client received a substantial award of compensation of damages in her favour exclusive of legal costs arising from her injuries and disabilities arising from this accident.

For a free no obligation consultation, please contact us on our toll free number 1300 768 780 so that an appointment can be arranged for you to attend our office to discuss your claim and to protect any legal rights that you may have arising from your accident.