Appellate judges have awarded a woman almost $540,000 after she slipped on a quartz step outside a neighbour’s home.
The woman pursued a slip and fall claim, arguing that her injuries were the result of her elderly neighbour’s negligence. The man, aged in his early 90s when the incident occurred in 2010, had recently installed three Caesarstone steps leading from his front door to the street.
The material is more commonly used on kitchen countertops and can be slippery, particularly when wet. The neighbour himself had slipped on the steps prior to the accident in question.
As a result of his fall, the man placed carpet squares in the middle of each step to avoid further problems. There was also a metal handrail that people could use to steady themselves while navigating the area.
The woman often visited and assisted her neighbour because his wife had cancer, while he had problems with his feet. She often used the side door to the property because she feared the Caesarstone steps were unsafe.
However, the second entrance was blocked by firewood on the day of the incident, forcing her to go through the front door. On the way out, she placed her foot on a part of the top step that was not covered by carpet, slipped and sustained injuries.
Original award and appeal
The first judge to rule on the case decided that the elderly man had been negligent in failing to take adequate precautions to protect people from hurting themselves while using the steps.
As such, the woman received $736,435 in damages. The man later appealed the decision, claiming the original judge had erred in his decision.
Among his complaints were that he had attempted to resolve the problem by putting carpet down to reduce the risk of an accident. He also argued for contributory negligence, stating that the woman had failed to be careful.
While some of the grounds for appeal were rejected, the appellate judges agreed that contributory negligence was a factor. Specifically, the first judge had misunderstood how the incident occurred, believing the plaintiff had struck her foot on the corner of the step.
Instead, the Court of Appeal judges acknowledged that the woman was aware of the dangers posed by the steps and had intended not to use them. The fact she inadvertently stepped on the quartz anyway indicated carelessness in manoeuvring the area, the judges claimed.
Her injury compensation was therefore reduced to $539,692.