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Who is to blame for trip/slip and falls in shopping centres?

The common areas and walkways of shopping centers are amongst the most frequent locations for slip/trip and fall cases.It would be fair to say that most of us have been in a shopping centre and have either witnessed someone dropping or spilling something on the floor, or have experienced a near miss when they feel the traction on their shoe slip when walking through liquid that they did not see in advance. If you are one of the unlucky ones who have slipped/tripped and fell as a result of something hazardous lying in wait on a shopping centre floor, for example liquid on the mezzanine of a shopping centre or in a food court, knowing who is actually responsible and who a personal injury claim should be brought against can be confusing.

Occupiers Liability

The law recognizes that lawful entrants onto a property (including shoppers in a shopping centre) are owed a duty of care by the occupiers of those premises to take all reasonable care to avoid a foreseeable risk of injury. The duty owed to shoppers includes making sure that reasonable care is taken to make sure that walkways and common areas are free from slip/trip hazards that can cause shoppers to fall and suffer an injury.As shopping centres are generally expansive areas which attract large crowds of people (particularly during holiday periods), the occupiers and owners of those centres are able to delegate that duty to third parties such as cleaning companies and also contract with management companies to undertake the day-to-day management of their commercial premises.

Who do I Bring a Claim Against?

Therefore, if you suffer an injury because you have fallen in a shopping centre common area (for example, slipped in liquid or food), it is important that personal injury claims be brought against not just the shopping centre owners, but also the cleaners they engage and also any management company they engage to manage the centre. Claims are brought pursuant to the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (“the PIPA”) and a claim can be brought against all parties in the shopping centre who have control of the area where an injury occurs. If this is done, then the parties a legally obliged to provide information (disclosure) regarding the systems of inspection and control of the premises so that you can determine who is negligent for your injury.

Case Law

The High Court of Australia considered a slip and fall case in the matter of Strong v Woolworths Limited [2012] HCA 5, where a woman slipped on a hot chip outside of a Big W store at the Centro Taree Shopping Centre. As a result of that injury, the Plaintiff brought claims against Woolworths (as the owner of Big W) and the owner/managers of the store.

The High Court ultimately held that Woolworths were negligent (through scrutiny of the cleaning systems they had in place) for failing to have proper system of cleaning and inspection in place.

The Key Takeaway

It is important that you identify as many parties as you can who may have been responsible for your injury when making a claim for an injury suffered in a shopping centre. That is because it is only through disclosure after a claim is lodged and accepted that it is possible to clearly identify the negligent parties to a claim.