Leaking Detergent Bottle in Shoppers Hands Causes Shopper to Slip & Fall in Supermarket

Published 06 Mar 2018

CM was shopping as she normally does each week at her nearby supermarket in Liverpool. Apart from her normal groceries, she also went to purchase some dishwashing detergent. She had walked about five paces from her trolley to grab some dishwashing liquid from the bottom shelf. She started to walk towards her shopping trolley, when she reconsidered the size of the dishwashing liquid that she had chosen, as it was a one litre bottle. Unbeknownst to her the bottle was leaking, as she went back over her footsteps, she stepped into the dishwashing liquid that she had just laid down, which caused her to slip and fall. CM hit the ground heavily causing her serious injuries.

CM was a single mother of four, and the injuries impacted every aspect of her activities of daily living.

A major obstacle in the prosecution of this case was the defendant’s failure to recognize that this was not a simple slip and fall case, but also a consumer law case.

If the incident occurred because another shopper had picked up the leaking bottle and laid a dangerous trail of detergent, it may well be that our client would have little prospects of success. The supermarket would need to be given an opportunity to identify the hazard and clean it up. This was the way the defendant saw the case. What they failed to consider was the trail was laid down when CM picked up the container in her capacity as a consumer, and in doing so was entitled to expect that the product was free from defect under the Australian Consumer Legislation.

The supermarket had an obligation to ensure when placing the product on its shelves that the product was free from defect.

The defendant’s failure to recognize that this was not a simple slip and fall claim was reflected in their defence. By the time they recognized the claim they were asked to meet, the matter had already been set down for hearing.

The defendant had previously been reluctant to enter into any settlement negotiations, and maintained their offer of a verdict for the defendant, and supported their position by stating that CM was the maker of her own demise.

After the matter was set down for hearing, the defendant must have sought alternate legal advice as they started to eagerly seek an informal settlement conference.

The matter resolved quickly at the informal settlement conference. It was clear that the understanding of all relevant legislation by the solicitors of Gerard Malouf and Partners and thinking outside of the normal, that the Defendant was caught with their blinkers on resulting in a far better result than expected, simply because the defendant remained completely unprepared in the preparation of their evidence.