Canadian Underwriter

Slip and fall costs supermarket chain $755,000

April 19, 2018   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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A woman who fell in a North Vancouver supermarket after slipping in a puddle of spilled laundry soap is no longer employable and is entitled to $375,000 in compensation for loss of future capacity, a Supreme Court of British Columbia judge has ruled.

The defendant, Loblaws Inc., had a detailed risk management plan at the Real Canadian Superstore in North Vancouver. But court records indicate the manager on duty March 25, 2012 failed to follow several steps in the incident response plan.

On that morning Lori Lee Harrison “unknowingly stepped in a large pool of liquid laundry detergent,” while shopping at the supermarket, Justice Bill Basran of the B.C. Supreme Court wrote in Harrison v. Loblaws, Inc. (Real Canadian Superstore), released April 10, 2018.

Harrison slid, fell and hit the back of her head on the floor. She had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.

She sued and was awarded a total of about $750,000, of which $195,000 was for loss of past income and $175,000 was for pain and suffering. Harrison has mild traumatic brain injury and suffers from headaches, dizziness, imbalance, concentration and memory problems, Justice Basran wrote. She was described by a doctor as “no longer competitively employable.”

The issues before the court were liability, damages and contributory negligence.

Harrison had sued Loblaws under the Occupiers’ Liability Act. Defendants can argue they have a “reasonable system of inspection and maintenance in place” and that they are following their system at the time of the accident.

Justice Basran found there was no evidence to show Harrison was contributorily negligent.

Loblaws policy stipulates that in case of accident, management must fill out a report that includes a copy of the “sweep log,” which documents hourly inspections of floors. Accident reports must also include the staff schedule that day, photographs of the scene, a drawing of the scene and detailed statements from all staff before they leave the store.

The manager on duty that day “did almost none of the things required by the policy,” wrote Justice Basran. “He did not take a copy of the relevant sweep log as it appeared at the time of the accident. The only sweep log that was put into evidence was the completed sweep log for the week that began on November 25.”

Justice Basran found there was “insufficient evidence” that Loblaws was following its own system of inspection and maintenance.

“The only sweep log produced at trial was for the front end area,” Justice Basran wrote. “Specifically, the sweep log for the grocery area which presumably would include the grocery aisles, was not produced. The question of whether the location of the accident was in the front end area or in the grocery area was a significant issue throughout the trial.  The fact that there is a different sweep log for the grocery area indicates that there must be some boundary between the front end area and the grocery area.”

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