26 August, 2010
Forbes Insurance successfully defended the Cooperative Group in a claim brought by a member of the public for personal injury.
Mrs Hanley said that she had slipped on a grape on the floor of a Cooperative retail store and alleged breach of the Occupier's Liability Act 1957. In cross examination, neither the claimant nor her husband were able to confirm that the substance on the sole of the claimant's shoe was a squashed grape. Both witnesses agreed that the floor was dry, clean and that there was no evidence of debris or food waste at the point of fall. The claimant's husband admitted that he had gone straight home and telephoned his own union representative for advice on how to make a claim. It was clear the Claimant was unable to establish that she had fallen as a result of anything on the floor and certainly not as a result of a negligent act or omission on the part of the Defendants. Before the witnesses for the Defendants gave evidence an application was made that there was no case to answer. District Judge Booth at the Huddersfield County Court said that the husband was of a mindset to make a claim as soon as his wife had fallen and dismissed the claim with an order that for costs in favour of the Defendant.
A submission of 'no case to answer' was an appropriate tactic in this instance where the claimant had failed to satisfy the burden of proof that on the balance of probabilities she had fallen as a result of a grape. Her evidence and the evidence of her husband was rejected as unreliable. It was not therefore necessary for the Defendant to demonstrate that it had 'taken such care as is/ was reasonable' (section 2(2) Occupiers Liability Act 1957).