29 July, 2011
Forbes successfully defended an Occupiers Liability claim at trial on behalf of the Co-operative Group Limited.
Briefly, the facts involved a Claimant who alleged that when she attended the Co-operative store in Llanelli she slipped on a grape on the floor in the produce department injuring her back.
The Group Risk and Insurance Department of the Co-operative Group denied liability on the basis that the store had in place a proper system to deal with slipping hazards. Members of staff were instructed in the store's "clean as you go" policy. They were trained to actively look for any potential hazards during the course of their ordinary duties and to take immediate action upon observing the presence of any hazard or danger.
In evidence, the store supervisor advised that she had last walked around the produce area approximately 20-25 minutes before the Claimant's accident. Furthermore, the shop assistant working in the produce area on the day of the Claimant's accident confirmed that he had checked the floor 5-10 minutes before the Claimant's accident and the floor was free from any spillages or debris at that time.
At trial, it was accepted that the Claimant had the fall as alleged by her, but there was no evidence to suggest how long the grape had been present on the floor prior to the Claimant's accident.
The Trial Judge accepted that the limited number of accidents within the store suggested that the cleaning system in place was perfectly adequate. The Judge was equally satisfied that the Store operated a system of ensuring that its customers were reasonably safe from slipping hazards whilst at their store. In addition, he felt that the system in place was effectively a pro-active one, as the witnesses had confirmed that they did actively look for slip and trip hazards as they did their work around the store. Accordingly, there was no basis to conclude that the store had been negligent in this case.
The claim was dismissed and the Claimant was ordered to pay the Co-operative Group's costs.
This case demonstrates the importance of witness evidence to prove that the hazard could only have been present for a short space of time. Notwithstanding the absence of any documented inspection procedure the store was able to demonstrate that customer safety was of paramount importance and that "clean as you go" was taken seriously by the store staff. In retail claims involving slipping incidents, investigations carried out and statements obtained from members of staff immediately after the accident are vitally important to substantiate the witnesses' recollection of events.
For further information on this case please contact our Leeds office, 13/14 South Parade, Leeds, LS1 5QS. Tel: 0113 244 6688. For retail claims enquiries please contact our Manchester office on 0161 918 0000.
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