Slip on wet tiles at motel results in breach of care

Date: Oct 24, 2019

A woman has won a compensation claim against a motel in Moruya, NSW, after she slipped on the wet tiles of her room’s bathroom floor and suffered lasting injuries.

The slip

In August 2013, the plaintiff accepted a position with the Eurobodalla Shire Council in Moruya. The role required her to attend an orientation meeting before commencing employment. This led her to stay at the Moruya Motel, where the incident took place.

While showering before departing from the motel, the plaintiff realised that a great quantity of water made its way from under the shower curtain and onto the adjoining tiled floor. The women placed several towels around the base of the shower to dry the floor, and left the bathroom to dress. However, she didn’t notice that the water had pooled throughout the bathroom, and upon returning she slipped by the sink, injuring her right hip and buttock.

The aftermath

The fall caused a fracture of the plaintiff’s right femur, requiring immediate surgery. After being discharged, she lived with a friend temporarily, who was able to help her cook, wash or clean. The plaintiff had been scheduled to start at the Eurobodalla Shire Council two weeks after the original fall but postponed her return to work by one week. Although what she could do was limited, the plaintiff worked for the following twelve months without any loss of time.

Following her return to work, the plaintiff underwent physiotherapy but the pain in her hip did not subside. In May 2014, she was referred for follow up X-Ray scans on her right hip which revealed medical complications. She was referred to an orthopaedic specialist who recommended a hip replacement. After the replacement, the plaintiff became very unwell and did not recover for weeks. This forced her to resign from her role at the Council and give up her rental property. The plaintiff was also unable to return to many of her hobbies, including running, kayaking and swimming.

The evidence

Expert ergonomic reports produced on behalf of the claimant found that:

  • Another person in the same position could not reasonably be expected to know that water had pooled throughout the bathroom.
  • Access to the bathroom sink and toilet unavoidably requires a person to walk across the tiled area immediately adjacent to the shower.
  • Simple measures undertaken by the hotel (such as placing adhesive, slip-resistant strips on the tiled area) could have negated the risk of excess water pooling.

As such, the NSW Supreme Court found that the defendants (the owners of the motel) would have known about the risks of showering in the motel bathrooms, meaning they breached their duty of care to the plaintiff. They were ordered to compensate her nearly $500,000, plus the costs of proceedings.

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