30 September, 2014
On behalf of the Co-operative Group Ltd, Forbes has successfully defended a case which highlights the importance of retaining CCTV footage. In this case, the Claimant slipped at the entrance of a store based at a petrol station in February 2012. She alleged that there was liquid on the floor that had caused her to fall and sustain various soft tissue injuries to her wrist, shoulder, knee and neck. It was not disputed that the Claimant slipped and fell, but two employees, who attended at the scene in the aftermath, confirmed that the floor appeared to be clean and dry. The witnesses said that the Claimant was wearing smooth soled footwear and taking large strides which caused her to slip and fall.
Crucially in this case the CCTV footage had been retained; the footage showed the Claimant stepping off the entrance mat onto the tiles and then slipping and landing heavily. The Defendant's witnesses could be seen thoroughly checking the floor afterwards. Helpfully, the footage also showed that the area where the Claimant fell was traversed 8 times by other customers entering and/or leaving the store without any issues in the minutes before and after the Claimant's fall.
In evidence the Claimant explained that she saw a dark liquid on the floor, like oil, but conceded that it could not be seen on the CCTV footage. She stated that "she must have slipped on something" and said that she told the Defendant's employees that there was liquid on the floor.
The Defendant's central defence was that there was no liquid situated on the ceramic tiles at the time of the Claimant's accident. This was supported by the CCTV footage and the 'clean as you go policy' evidenced by witness statements from the two employees who attended at the scene.
The Deputy District Judge dismissed the claim, finding that the evidence did not support the Claimant's recollection and suggesting that maybe she had thought about the matter after the event to try to work out a reason why she had slipped. The
Judge awarded the Defendant its costs in full.
Taking early steps to retain CCTV footage and any other evidence obtained by store staff can be of paramount importance in successfully defeating such claims. Witness statements were also obtained early in the life of the claim (within months of the accident), which meant that the witnesses' version of events was committed to paper while their memories were still fresh. The CCTV was not only closely scrutinised in court, but also proved a useful aid in refreshing the witnesses' memories of events when the case came to trial. This is a case which highlights the importance of obtaining and preserving such evidence at the earliest opportunity.
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