Shopping centre must allow access to public liability suit plaintiff

Date: Apr 11, 2020

A New South Wales woman claims that in 2015, she slipped on unattended ice cream and fell at a shopping centre. She sought a public liability lawsuit against the operator of that space, part of which included an attempt to inspect the premises.

However, the plaintiff Prashadhinee Soma-Devan – as well as her legal representation and a liability expert – sought access to the facility but were denied by the shopping centre's operator, according to court documents. Because the incident allegedly occurred as a result of spilled ice cream being left on the ground of the shopping space, Soma-Devan and her team wanted to inspect the site and conduct slip testing. The case eventually worked its way to the Supreme Court.

What happened?

Upon receiving the request, the shopping centre's own legal representatives said that the details contained therein were not enough to specify what the claim actually was, and on those grounds denied access to the plaintiff and her team. Specifically, they noted that the claim did not state the specific measures Soma-Devan should have undertaken to avoid risk, and asked for more information about what exactly made the floor unsafe, or what it could have done to help her avoid injury.

When the additional requested information arrived a few months later, the shopping centre's lawyers still denied access, saying the issues were still unclearly defined. Further information was provided in early February, with the plaintiff saying there was little more that could be said without going through the inspection.

A look at the decision

With all these details in mind, Justice Ian Harrison stated that while there was a clear case for the defendant to be concerned about the claim's particulars, those issues did not give it the right to deny her access to the space. While it was not put to the court to issue a decision on Soma-Devan's liability suit, there was plenty of history to suggest that a determination could not be made one way or the other without expert input.

"In my opinion, the plaintiff is entitled to inspect the premises with her expert in order to assist her with that case," Justice Harrison wrote.

If you or someone you know was involved in a public liability case, get in touch with the experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners. We can help you determine the best path forward when you suffer an accident, as expediently as possible.

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