Cleaners ordered to pay shopper $150,000.00 damages for injury arising from breach of cleaning contract

PUBLISHED 24 Apr 2020

Our client attended a shopping centre located west of Sydney in the Greater Western Sydney. Whilst our client was walking through the pedestrian mall in the shopping centre, she slipped on a liquid contaminant on the floor, fell and suffered a serious injury.

The shopping centre had contracted a company to carry out cleaning services on premises in accordance with a maintenance and service agreement. The cleaning services agreement stated that cleaning rotation should occur five minutes on or around the food areas. Our client fell within 10 metres of a café. Captured on CCTV footage, it was clear that no cleaners are seen in the area where our client slipped for a period of 1 hour before the accident.

The cleaners were in breach of their cleaning agreement.

Slip and Fall Injury

A claim was made against the owners of the shopping centre and the cleaners in respect of our client’s injuries, losses and damages. As a result of the fall, our client suffered injuries to her lower back and left knee, a right foot fracture and psychological injury, trauma and shock.

Not long after the fall, she attended her family doctor and was referred to have x-rays and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication for pain relief.

The x-rays of our client’s lower back revealed that she was suffering from a right-sided disc protrusion at the L3/L4 disc level and that this was pressing on her nerve and causing her sacroiliac joint pain in her left leg. She was referred to a neurologist for nerve conduction studies and this confirmed her lower back symptoms and left leg radicular symptomatology.

She was referred for x-rays of her right foot and right ankle and these revealed a fracture and was placed in a moon boot for a 6-week period. She was subsequently on crutches for 5 months.

With constant lower back pain radiating to her left leg, she was treated for the ongoing pain through physiotherapy. Still, there was constant lower back pain radiating to her left leg.

She found it difficult to do housework and she organized a cleaner to assist in undertaking her housework during her period of incapacity. Her family and children also assisted her. She was working in a coffee shop at the time of the injury and due to the severity of her pain, she was not able to return to work.

Due to the effects of her injury, her loss of enjoyment of life and incapacity, she suffered from psychological and emotional symptoms of depression and anxiety because as a result of the impact of her injuries her life. She was referred to a psychologist for treatment of her symptoms and psychological injury.

Court Case & Investigation

We arranged for her to be medically examined and assessed once her condition stabilized. The orthopaedic surgeon provided an opinion that she was suffering from 25% permanent impairment of her back as a result of her injury and there was a loss of use of the left leg as a result of the injury. These were permanent and she was suffering from daily pain and disability which has an impact on her general well-being.

A letter of demand was forwarded to the owners and cleaners of the shopping centre. They both denied liability and blamed each other for our client’s accident. We launched legal proceedings against the owners of the shopping centre and the cleaners who had been contracted by the shopping centre to undertake cleaning services at the shopping centre. We sued in accordance with the principles of negligence under the common law and pursuant to the Australian Consumer Law Legislation by which consumers are entitled to benefit of guarantees as members of the public shopping at the shopping centre.

Both the shopping centre and the cleaners filed a defence denying liability and pleaded particulars of contributory negligence against our client stating that she failed to take care of her own safety whilst she was walking and shopping in the shopping centre. We commissioned a liability expert report on the matter.

We arranged for the liability expert to view the area and test the floor where our client slipped. This is after the expert had viewed the CCTV footage of our client’s accident. The expert determined that from his measurements the terrazzo floor tiles were in a very high category of slipperiness when wet. He also found our client was not aware that the puddles of water were there as she was walking and undertaking her shopping.

The expert found that the area was busy with patrons walking through the area after purchasing take away food and beverages from the nearby café, but that there were no cleaners seen cleaning the floor area for extended periods of time. The cleaning agreement between the owners and the cleaners highlights the cleaning rotation should be a minimum of 15 minutes.

In conclusion, the expert found in his opinion that the owners of the shopping centre had not ensured the control measures they implemented were effective, and they had not ensured the cleaning rotation had been carried out in the centre, or that those control measures were effective. It was foreseeable to the owners and cleaners that a person walking on the terrazzo tile floor, at high risk of contamination by potential lubricants, would experience a slip, loss of balance, fall and injury unless appropriate preventative measures were implemented.

The owners and cleaners did not obtain any expert liability report in reply. They arranged for the client to be independently medically examined and assessed. Their orthopaedic surgeon found that our client had suffered soft-tissue injuries caused by the fall and that these injuries were affecting her ability to lead a normal life. He also found that it was reasonable for her to obtain commercial domestic assistance cleaning after the accident due to her physical injury in the accident. The psychological assessment of the client found that she was suffering from major depressive disorder with adjustment disorder which required ongoing psychological counselling since the accident.

Conclusion and Resolution

The court ordered that the parties attend a mediation hearing to canvass the liability and medical issues in the matter, including the compensation in damages that our client would likely be awarded as a result of her injuries and disabilities. At the conclusion of the hearing, the owners and the cleaners were ordered to pay our client a significant award in damages of $150,000.

The cleaners were ordered to pay the majority of the verdict money, as a result of their breach of the cleaning agreement which ultimately led to our client suffering her slip and fall on the wet floor and thereby causing her subsequent injuries sustained in the accident.

Our client was very happy with the outcome of the mediation hearing and the resolution of her court case against the shopping centre.

If you suffer an injury as a result of a slip and fall on someone else’s premises or in a shopping centre, then you may be entitled to receive awarding damages in compensation for your injuries as a result of the negligence of the other party.

For a free no-obligation consultation please contact our TOLL-free number on 1300 746 8780 so that an appointment can be arranged for you to attend our office for you to protect your legal rights arising from your accident.

 

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