Shopper tripping over unsecured mat paid substantial damages in compensation from shopping centre

Published 29 Nov 2017

Our client was an elderly lady attending with her friend for the purposes of general shopping at a large shopping centre in the Guildford area which is a part of the Greater Western Sydney Region.

After our client had completed the shopping for a number of hours with her friend they decided to leave the shopping centre and they walked towards the exit on the ground level of the shopping centre. Inside the shopping centre near the exit door was a black mat placed length wise from the exit into the shopping centre. The mat was black and approximately 2 metres wide and around 3 meters long.

As our client stepped to walk on the mat and towards the exit her foot got caught on the edge of the mat. The mat was unsecured. She lost her balance, fell to the ground and suffered serious injury. The mat on which our client tripped was wavy, had uneven edges, and the edges were not flat or flush with the ground. All of our client’s accidents was recorded on CCTV. It was clear from the CCTV Footage that the mat was not flat with the ground, so as to not be a trip hazard for customers in the shopping centre.

After our clients fall the security staff and staff in the shopping centre came to our client’s assistance and took all of her details concerning her injury and removed the mat. Despite this, the shopping centre denied that it was negligence in causing our clients injury.

We had informed them that there was a significant risk of injury for our client of any other shoppers being injured as a result of tripping over a black mat with uneven, wavy edges that were not flat. It was a risk of injury that was foreseeable and the risk of harm was not significant. The shopping centre denied that it was negligent and our clients claim and the fact that she had suffered injury arising from the accident.

We launched legal proceedings against the shopping centre. We alleged that the shopping centre through its agents and employees failed to take reasonable care to prevent that risk of harm from materialising. We arranged for an expert to view the scene where our client was injured and to view the relevant mat that caused the injury as well as where the mat had been stored. The expert also viewed the CCTV Footage our client’s accident.

The liability expert found that the shopping centre were negligent in causing our clients injury in that they did not undertake a thorough risk assessment of the floor mat area in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Regulations, that they fail to tape of fix down the edges of the floor mat so as to allow pedestrians and shoppers to walk upon the area of the floor mat safely. The expert also found that it was his opinion that it should have been foreseeable to the shopping centre that eventually a person walking on a designated entrance/exit area will experience a trip, fall and injury unless an appropriate preventative measures were affectively and unfailingly implemented so as to avoid injury so as to customers of the shopping centre such as our client. Clearly in our view it was an accident waiting to happen. We served that liability expert report upon the Defendant and their legal representatives.

As a result of the fall our client suffered injuries to her neck, right hand, lower back, right knee, aggravated her degenerative changes in her body and, psychological injury and shock from the fall. Although she had a pre-existing condition the fall and accident caused a significant aggravation of her pre-existing condition.

We obtained medical reports from the clients treating doctors and specialists including her medical records from her treatment providers. All of the medico-legal reports found that our client was suffering from on-going soft tissue injury primarily related to her neck and right hand and reasonably causally related to the subject incident. The specialist also found that with respect to her pre-existing medical conditions the injury will produce a material aggravation, permanent in character and was responsible for her current physical restrictions.

We launched legal proceedings against the Defendant shopping centre for our client’s injury losses and damages. As part of her claim included permanent impairment and pain and suffering, past and future treatment expenses and past and future care with help that she needed around the house to undertake her house work on a daily basis. All of these medical reports were served upon the Defendant. The Defendant arranged for our client to be independently medically examined and assessed.

The Defendant did not serve any liability expert report in reply. It was our view that liability with respect to our client’s claim was quite strong and that we would be able to establish negligence against the shopping centre with respect to the circumstanced surrounding our client injury, loss and damage. The Defendant shopping centre filed a defence denying that it was negligent, alleging that our client was negligent in causing her own injury and denying her injuries, losses and damages. We and our clients did not agree with this based upon the liability expert evidence served in the proceedings.

The proceedings were listed for hearing by the court. The court ordered that the parties attend an informal settlement conference for the purposes of discussing the liability and medical issues, including quantum and to look at the possibility of resolving before the hearing. After attending an informal settlement conference the Defendant shopping centre was ordered to pay our client customer and shopper substantial damages in compensation for her injuries, losses and damages.

Our client was extremely satisfied with the outcome of the settlement having regard to the circumstances of her injury, the denial of liability by the shopping centre and the eventual acceptance of liability and to pay her substantial damages in compensation for her injuries, losses and damages.

Conclusion

If you were injured whilst at a shopping centre and due to the negligence of the shopping centre and/or their agents or servants, you may be able to receive a substantial award in damages in compensation as a result of your injuries arising from the accident, providing that you can establish negligence against them.

In this case our client was a lawful entrant and shopper at a shopping centre and whilst she was leaving the shopping centre she tripped on the edge of the mat which was unsecured and was not flush with the ground causing her to fall and suffer serious injury.

Even though the Defendant shopping centre denied liability in negligence, they were ordered to pay our client a substantial award in damages and compensation for her injuries, losses and damages.

The case is a timely reminder as to the duties, obligations and responsibilities of shopping centres to their client customers whom they invite onto their premises for the purposes of shopping. Furthermore, they should ensure that the premises which they have invited them upon for the purposes of shopping are safe and they are not exposed to a foreseeable risk of injury which could have been avoided by reasonable care on the part of the shopping centre, as our client was exposed to in this case.

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