Slip and Fall

Dominoes falling over

On 17 October 2016 Andrew Hough reported in the Advertiser that a woman has issued proceedings in the District Court against Bunnings Group Ltd alleging that she slipped “on an unspecified substance” at a South Australian store and suffered injuries from her fall.  She is reported as having required “hospital treatment and surgery for her injuries” and as seeking damages, costs and interest.  Bunnings is reported as denying the allegations and as claiming that “she failed to keep proper lookout, adequate care for her own safety, watch where she was walking or observe and avoid the ‘alleged substance’ on the floor”.  Without commenting at all upon those particular legal proceedings, which have yet to work their way through the Court system, it is nonetheless interesting to turn to a brief consideration of the relevant law, namely the tort of negligence, which applies to slip and fall cases.  No doubt many of us have had near or actual falls as a result of slipping on a banana peel or some other substance accidently left on the floor at a supermarket, shop or other premises.  The following is a cursory review of some of the relevant issues. 

An essential element is causation.  The High Court of Australia in 2012 considered a case where a woman using crutches fell and was injured when her crutch slipped on a chip on the floor of a store.  It was not known when the chip fell onto the floor.  The defendant argued that the plaintiff had to bring evidence to show on the balance of probabilities that the chip had been on the floor longer than it would have been found and removed by a store cleaner, if the store had a cleaning regime in place.  The High Court rejected that argument and decided instead that it was sufficient for the woman to show that it was more probable than not the chip had been on the floor for longer than 15 or 20 minutes before she fell.  

Basically the test for causation is whether the injury would have been sustained “but for” whatever it was that caused the fall.  “But for” the chip being on the floor the crutch would not have given way and the woman would not have fallen and been injured.  She succeeded in that the store was held liable. 

Another requirement is that of reasonable foreseeability.  For example, if a banana peel is left on a shop floor and customers or staff are in the area, it is reasonably foreseeable that someone may step on the peel, fall and suffer injury as a result. 

Clelands Lawyers can advise you if you should suffer injury from such an incident.  If so, you may be entitled to compensation even if such an incident occurred some time ago.  You have up to three (3) years after the incident within which to commence an action claiming damages or including damages for personal injuries.  Even then, if the personal injury has remained latent for some time after it was caused, the three (3) year period beings to run from when the injury first comes to the knowledge of the injured person.