Canadian Underwriter

Split board on pallet in Superstore results in $48,513 trip-and-fall award

January 7, 2011   by Canadian Underwriter

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Risk managers for company superstores will want to make sure their companies check the repair of pallets that display store stock in the middle of their aisles, following a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision in Etson v. Loblaw Companies Ltd.
A 78-year-old woman was found 50% at fault for not watching where she was walking after she tripped on a split board protruding from a pallet that was displaying dishwashing detergent. As a result of her fall, she broke her hip, and ultimately required hip replacement surgery.
The B.C. Supreme Court found Loblaw Companies Ltd. was also 50% at fault for the plaintiff’s fall.
“In this case Ms. Etson’s accident could have been avoided if the defendant had removed the split board and stacked the detergent buckets in a more uniform fashion along the edge and the outer corner of the pallet,” wrote B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Fisher. “Moreover, the damaged condition of the pallet and the rather haphazard display of product could easily have been prevented had there been a simple visual inspection when the pallet was installed.
“There is no evidence that there was any visual inspection of this pallet by any of the defendant’s staff. In my view, had someone looked at this pallet, it would have been fairly obvious, and thus reasonably foreseeable, that a pallet in the condition of this one could have constituted a tripping hazard to customers.”
The court assessed non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 and special damages at $7,027.80, and then divided the amount in half, in accordance with the distribution of fault. The plaintiff received $48,513.90.