A greasy chip on the floor of a shopping complex has been the centre of a compensation case involving personal injury lawyers that has been brought up to the top level of the justice system.
The High Court of Australia has recently passed a ruling on the case that found in favour of the victim – an amputee – who claimed she slipped on the discarded food item in September 2004.
According to the claimant’s case, the tip of one of her crutches landed on the greasy chip and slipped out from under her, causing her to fall heavily to the ground.
As a result she suffered injuries to her back – in particular her spine – and while the official court documents provided do not go into extended detail, it is easy to imagine the pain and the impact it had on the victim’s quality of life.
Initially the case was heard by the NSW District Court, which found in favour of the claimant as the company responsible for keeping the area clear of trip hazards had failed to do so.
She was awarded a compensation payout in excess of $500,000 to help take into account her medical expenses as well as the pain and suffering she endured as a result.
However, while the company in question did not deny that it had a responsibility to keep the sidewalk in question clear of spillages and debris, it did question whether or not it was responsible for the fall in question.
Taking the case to an appeal, the corporation disputed the initial decision, basing their case on the fact that it had a policy in place that required the area outside its store to be cleaned every 15 minutes.
It asserted that it had lived up to its obligations to reduce risk of harm to members of the public by ensuring that the area was cleared of refuse on a regular basis.
While the appeal was successful, the victim was not satisfied with the outcome and decided to take her case to the High Court in Canberra.
She was successfully able to prove that the company in question was negligent in its duty of care, because the simple fact that the chip was not cleaned up after it had been dropped – presumably during lunch – despite the clear dangers it represented to members of the public.
The case asserted that – had proper cleaning actions been undertaken – then the chip would not have been on the floor and the victim’s crutch would not have slipped away, meaning that the accident would never have occurred.
As such, the High Court overturned the initial appeal and reinstated the compensation payment amount of $580,299.