19 December, 2019
Wilson v The Co-operative Group
The Claimant was shopping in a supermarket when she alleged that she tripped on the upturned edge of a mat situated on the vegetable aisle. She fell forwards and sustained soft tissue injuries.
The Claimant alleged that the upturned edge of the mat was a reasonably foreseeable tripping hazard, which posed a real source of danger. The Defendant denied that the cause of her fall was the anti-slip matting placed on the aisle. The Defendant disclosed CCTV evidence, which clearly showed that the mat was flat to the ground as the Claimant approached. The CCTV recording further showed the Defendant's staff attend to the Claimant when she was on the ground. There was no need for any staff member to adjust the mat or to correct its position. The accident was recorded by staff and no mention was made to suggest that the mat had been the cause of the accident and no such complaint was made by the Claimant.
The matter proceeded to trial. The DDJ found that the Claimant had done her best to assist the Court, although he noted that she was not always clear in her evidence and was sometimes contradictory.
The Claimant's pleaded case was that she tripped on an upturned edge of a mat whereas her witness statement merely stated that she had fallen over the edge of the mat. During her oral evidence, she confirmed that the mat was not upturned at the edge and surprisingly she confirmed it was flat.
After considering all the evidence, and applying the Occupiers Liability Act 1957, the Judge was satisfied that the mat was in situ and flat prior to Claimant's fall. He noted that it was an unfortunate and unpleasant incident and injury, but it was simply an accident. The claim was dismissed.
Occupiers owe a duty to take reasonable care to ensure the reasonable safety of visitors. The anti-slip mat had been placed on the vegetable aisle to prevent accidents. The Defendant was able to demonstrate it had a written system in place for checking mats and staff were trained to look for slipping and tripping hazards.
Occupiers are not expected to guarantee the absolute safety of visitors. Unfortunately, for whatever reason the Claimant tripped on the flat mat and the Judge confirmed that this incident was simply an accident and not one for which the Defendant should be held responsible.