Supermarket injury claim
In ALDI Foods Pty Ltd v Young, a supermarket challenged the assessment of damages for future domestic assistance awarded to a woman who fell in the supermarket. The company managed to get her award slightly reduced, but the supermarket was to receive an unexpected penalty.
How the fall happened
In July 2009 the plaintiff, aged 52 at the time, entered a Manly supermarket, walked to the rear and into the section where fruit and vegetables were displayed and believed she was encouraged to help herself to some strawberries by a supermarket employee, who directed her to go behind him. The employee was unpacking strawberries from boxes on pallet jack and gestured that the plaintiff should go “towards around the back of him.” When walking behind the employee, she stumbled, twisted, and fell on her right side, using her right hand in an attempt to protect her face. She noticed a pallet jack had caused her to trip.
The plaintiff had recently been hospitalised for two weeks and was still receiving therapy thrice a week. Her injury was worsened by her fall, medical experts agreed.
The case arrived in court in October 2014. The primary judge found the supermarket breached its duty of care as occupier of the food store by positioning the pallet jack with its tines extending into the aisle. Leaving it in that position created a hazard and increased the risk someone would slip or stumble. The pallet jack could easily have been positioned where it would not cause people to trip over it, but the supermarket failed in this regard, the judge found.
The Civil Liability Act allowed the initial judge to award the plaintiff $135,000 recognising that her existing injuries had been worsened by the supermarket’s negligence. The award covered non-economic loss at 28 per cent of a most extreme case, resulting in an award of $80,000; a ‘cushion’ award for future out of pocket expenses of $500,000 and future domestic assistance of $20,000. There was a deduction of 10 per cent, representing the ‘contributory negligence’ of the plaintiff. At first the award was $135,000. The Appeals Court decision of 2016 found future domestic assistance had been calculated wrongly by the judge and the award was reduced to $117,000.
What we can learn from this
The injured woman’s award was bumped down slightly but the supermarket was been ordered to pay 90% of the legal costs of the respondent in the appeal. Unfortunately many cases of supermarkets injuring people come before the courts each year, and Gerard Malouf and Partners is well prepared to guide people claiming compensation for their injuries.