Woman hit by mobility scooter succeeds in shopping centre claim

Date: Oct 19, 2019

NSW’s District Court has ruled in favour of an older woman struck by a mobility scooter while exiting a shopping centre in Woy Woy, NSW in a recent public liability compensation case. The plaintiff made no claim against the scooter driver however – so, how did this unusual case unfold and why was the shopping centre management team held accountable?

Background of the case

The incident in question occurred nearly three years ago while the plaintiff was shopping in Deepwater Plaza Shopping Centre. As the woman was exiting the premises via an amenities corridor, she was hit by a mobility scooter travelling along the same thoroughfare.

What would have otherwise been a normal accident was exacerbated by the woman’s age and the force of the collision, so she sustained psychological trauma and injuries to her right leg. An ambulance was called shortly after the incident and the plaintiff was conveyed to a nearby hospital. In due course the plaintiff had an operation on her leg to insert a metal nail rod.

The woman’s claim for damages stems from the fact that while she was walking down the corridor, a shop unit was undergoing refurbishments. This was protruding more than usual into the main thoroughfare and obscured the woman’s view of oncoming pedestrians. She further claimed that the shopping centre had made no attempt to put up any warning signs or mirrors to help shoppers navigate this potentially risky obstacle.

Did shopping centre management owe the plaintiff a duty of care?

Under the NSW Civil Liability Act 2002, all businesses and public organisations have a duty of care to customers or indeed any individuals that use legally the space in which they operate. Accordingly, shopping centre management is required to prevent any foreseeable risks of harm to shoppers, and take all necessary precautions required to reduce the chances of injury that another reasonable person in the same circumstances would take.

Did management breach its duty and was it solely responsible for the injuries?

The plaintiff’s oral and physical evidence, including CCTV footage of the incident, demonstrated that she had taken reasonable steps (despite her view being limited by the shop refurbishment) to check she was in no danger of hitting another pedestrian. Additionally, the Court ruled that shopping centre management had not taken the steps needed to minimise the refurbishment’s footprint or erect warning signs for shoppers. Finally, the Court agreed that the woman’s age and previous medical history had no tangible effect on the injuries she sustained from the scooter collision, and so awarded her damages.

For more information on how to make your own public liability claim, contact the Gerard Malouf & Partners team today.

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