A woman who stepped on a grape in the Coles fresh produce section has slipped once and fallen twice – first to her knees and elbows and againlater in her attempt to sue the supermarket giant.
Fatma Abdul Razzak’s lawsuit failed on Thursday when the District Court ruled Coles had exercised reasonable care in cleaning its floors and had not breached its duty of care.
Judge David Russell ordered Coles to pay Mrs Razzak $7728 in damages, but this will be dwarfed by the amount she will have to pay to cover the supermarket’s legal bill after her action failed.
Ms Razzak was shopping in the fruit and vegetable aisle at Coles Hurstville on a Saturday morning in April 2015 when she passed a staff member unstacking grapes onto a table.
Suddenly her feet lost grip, her right foot went backwards and she plunged forward onto her knees and elbows.
Rising to her feet, she detected squashed grapes on the floor.
Ms Razzak sued Coles for compensation in the NSW District Court, alleging injuries to her neck and lower back, claiming negligence and seeking damages of at least $35,000.
Her claim was far short of the $580,299 awarded to Kathryn Strong in 2012, who suffered a serious spinal injury after she slipped on a greasychip in Woolworths.
The High Court ruled in that case that reasonable care would require the supermarket to check the floors at intervals not longer than 20 minutes.
Ms Razzak’s legal team tendered evidence thatshowed there had been 16 slips or falls in the 12 months leading up to the accident, including three that involved grapes, one a cherry pip and another when a customer slipped the residue from a bean skin.
But Judge Russell found the grape could not have been on the floor longer than 10 minutes, with four staff spot-checking the floor every seven to 20 minutes,and it was not realistic to expect every piece of vegetable matter which fell to the floor be picked up instantly.
In spite of efforts by staff to contain spills with mats, checks and cleaning, organic matter still ended up on the floor and customers did occasionally trip, he found.
“Coles is not bound to ensure the absolute safety of entrants to its stores,” he said.
“It must take reasonable care.
“Coles could not have been expected to ensure safety by, for example, having several staff in every aisle doing nothing but watching for dropped vegetable matter, or by allocating a staff member to ‘shadow’every customer as they walked around the store.”
Mrs Razzak had a lengthy history of pain and told the court she always told doctors about her problems if she was worried about something.
But her medical records showed she did not complain about neck pain until 10 weeks after the incident, nor about back pain until four months later, although she had visited her doctor immediately after the incident and numerous times since regarding her knees and elbow.
She was awarded $978 for past medical expenses, $750 for future analgesics and physiotherapy and $6000 for non-economic loss associated with injuries.
But Judge Russell ordered in favour of Coles and ordered her to pay its costs.
The Sydney Morning Herald