Public liability claim hinges on whether wet floor caused accident

Date: Feb 01, 2018

An allegedly wet floor was at the centre of a public liability claim recently, when a man suffered severe injuries to his right elbow after falling over in a supermarket.

The plaintiff said he entered the store on a rainy day wearing thongs. He wiped his footwear dry on a mat at the entrance before proceeding into the shop.

After just a couple of steps, the man claimed his foot slipped from underneath him due to a wet patch on the floor. The plaintiff said he briefly blacked out, but could feel that his shirt was damp when he regained consciousness.

District Court Judge Philip Taylor calculated that the man would be entitled to $214,109 compensation if his claim succeeded. But was the floor wet?

Evidence for and against the plaintiff’s version of events

Contemporaneous evidence revealed that the plaintiff told shop employees who attended to his injuries that he had slipped on a wet floor. The man’s admission notes to hospital supported this claim.

One staff member who provided first aid admitted that she noticed a little water around the edges of the entrance mat approximately 10 minutes after the accident.

However, the same employee claimed she scoured the area where the man fell and confirmed it was not wet. Several other shop workers provided similar testimonies, claiming they could not see a wet patch at the location the plaintiff’s accident occurred.

An incident report that was written at the time of the accident read: “Floor was inspected prior to and during incident, there was [sic] no spills or water evident.”

Judge’s decision on public liability claim

Judge Taylor said all witnesses who provided testimony, including the plaintiff, seemed credible.

However, he ruled that the majority of the evidence suggested the floor was not wet in the area where the plaintiff suffered his injuries.

“Three employees said they checked and were adamant that there was no water,” the judge stated.

“I am not satisfied that there was water on the floor in the area where [the claimant’s] right foot slipped. His evidence of a damp shirt is insufficient to establish the presence of water.”

The judge therefore ruled in favour of the defendant, although the plaintiff can appeal the decision. If successful, he could be entitled to $139,000 in non-economic losses, $60,000 in care costs and more than $15,000 for past and future medical expenses.

For more information on injury claims for slips, trips and falls in public places, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers today.

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