Meat wholesaler liable in negligence for dangerous and raised steel track laid in carpark

PUBLISHED 27 May 2019

Our client was attending a leading meat wholesaler in Sydney’s Western Suburbs in the state of New South Wales for the purposes of purchasing meat goods when she was caused to trip and fall over a dangerously raised steel track laid in the floor of the carpark. The track did not have any contrasting paint markings and blended in with the surrounding carpark area. As a result of falling flat on her face, our client suffered concussion, facial injuries, a fractured nose, laceration to her lips and damage to her teeth from the accident. She was referred to have x-rays and also referred to an ENT nose specialist who determined that she required an operation to her fractured nose to rectify the deformity to her nose as a result of the accident.

A letter of demand was forwarded to the meat wholesaler who referred the matter to her public liability insurer. They denied liability for the claim. We launched legal proceedings against the meat wholesaler in negligence on the basis that the raised steel track was a trip hazard and that there was a risk of injury which was foreseeable in the circumstances for which the wholesaler should have undertaken precautions to prevent injury to our client. A building expert was commissioned to view the track at the wholesaler’s premises. The building expert provided an expert opinion report that it was reasonable to accept that the carpark was not adequately or safely maintained and contained vertical obstructions that would have caused our client to trip and fall. Furthermore, the expert opinion confirmed to us that had the wholesaler conducted regular and routine risk assessments of the area it would have become apparent that the gate track which was raised above the concrete carpark was a trip hazard and could have been rectified very quickly and at a minimum cost.

It was determined by the expert that the pathway did not comply with Australian standards, there were no thorough hazard and risk assessments of the pathway, the carpark and gate tracks did not have distinct markings to highlight the potential hazards of pedestrians walking along the carpark and the obstruction of the gate track was not highlighted in accordance with Australian standards. In conclusion, the liability expert advised that there were reasonable preventative actions available to the wholesaler and that by the implementation of those measures our client would not have been exposed to the risk of injury which could have been very much reduced if not entirely obviated. The wholesaler filed a defence denying liability and placing the blame on our client for her accident. All of these were dealt with by the liability expert report in which the expert found that in their opinion that it should have been foreseeable to the wholesaler that eventually a person walking on a designated carpark area would experience a trip and fall unless appropriate preventative measures were reflected and unfailingly implemented.

We arranged for our client to be independently medically examined by doctors and specialists. Those medical reports were served on the other side. Our client also attended to be medically examined by the specialist for the Defendant who also agreed that our client did require an operation as a result of the accident. The court had allocated the matter for a hearing and ordered the parties to participate in an informal settlement conference for the purposes of discussing the liability and medical issues in the matter. The parties attended to the informal settlement conference and after some time before the hearing of the matter the parties were able to resolve the claim on the basis that the Defendant was ordered to pay our client a substantial award in damages as a result of the wholesalers for her injuries, losses and damages.

If you suffer an injury as a pedestrian as a result of the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to receive an award in damages in compensation as a result of your injuries that you have suffered from the accident due to the negligence of the other party.

In this case our client was a pedestrian at a well known Australian leading meat wholesaler and that whilst she was on their premises for the purpose of purchasing meat goods she was caused to trip and fall on a dangerously raised steel trap laid in the floor of the carpark. Even though they denied liability for our client’s injury, we had photographs for the liability building expert to view the raised tracks and he determined that they did not comply with the Australian standards and our client’s injury could have been avoided if not totally obviated by ensuring that regular and routine risk assessments of the area were undertaken and the area could have been rendered significantly safer, very quickly and at a minimal cost.

The wholesaler did not obtain a liability expert report in reply. The wholesalers own medical evidence determined that our client did require surgery to her fractured nose and there were psychological effects arising from the accident. The wholesaler was found liable in negligence and ordered to pay our client a significant award in damages in compensation as a result of her injuries, losses and damages. Our client was very pleased with the outcome of the settlement of the claim having regard to the denial of liability in the matter.

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