Man awarded over $293,000 following iced coffee slip

Date: Jan 23, 2018

A man who slipped on a puddle of iced coffee in a supermarket has received $293,597 after a NSW District Court judge ruled the retailer was negligent in failing to deal with the spill.

The plaintiff injured his right shoulder in the incident, which has left him unable to work in his previous profession as a glazier. He also developed depression after the accident and has struggled to perform household tasks such as cooking, cleaning and gardening.

But why was the supermarket liable for damages? Let’s examine the evidence presented at the hearing.

How did the accident occur?

In February 2016, the plaintiff was looking for batteries on a high shelf when he slipped on a patch of iced coffee.

He was unable to break his sudden fall and landed heavily on his right shoulder. CCTV footage supported the man’s version of events, showing that another customer had spilled the liquid in the aisle prior to the accident.

However, the video recording was later overwritten, despite the plaintiff asking on several occasions for a copy.

This meant the footage could not be examined in court, making it difficult to ascertain how long the coffee had remained on the floor before the plaintiff slipped.

Why was the supermarket negligent?

A supermarket has a duty of care to ensure foreseeable risks to customer safety are appropriately handled. As such, employees are expected to regularly monitor aisles and clean up spillages.

Judge David Russell said previous negligence cases brought against retailers had established that floor inspections should take place every 15 to 20 minutes to prevent accidents.

While the CCTV footage had been wiped, a supermarket employee confirmed approximately one hour had passed between the spill occurring and the plaintiff’s accident.

Judge Russell ruled that the supermarket had breached its duty of care by not inspecting aisles frequently enough, thus failing to identify and clean up the liquid that resulted in the man’s injuries.

What damages did the plaintiff receive?

The man received more than $200,000 for past and future lost income, as he has extremely poor mobility in his right shoulder, preventing him from returning to work.

He also received over $60,000 for non-economic losses, which provide compensation for less tangible aspects of an injury, such as pain and suffering and loss of quality of life. Judge Russell also ordered the supermarket to pay the man’s legal costs.

Have you suffered a slip, trip or fall in a supermarket or other public place? Our experienced personal injury experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers offer no-win, no-fee services to help you pursue your case.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.