Slip and Fall legal cases are on a rapid increase in Australian courts. What might surprise you is that this increase has less to do with poor floor choices and more to do with the economy!
As economies tighten around the world and unemployment increases, there is an unusual corresponding growth in slip fall litigation. One of the major drivers for this increase is the "No Win No Fee" marketing strategies used by an ever increasing number of law firms in this country and overseas.
In the US for instance, slip fall litigation is an industry and thousands of Legal Firms make a living just defending this one type of case, the reason for this is an average slip and fall case is $50,000 to defend.
You, as a property manager or business owner, must be proactive or will have a very difficult time winning a case brought against you. This is very clearly laid out in the legal definition of negligence, which is defined as: “Failure to use a reasonable amount of care when such failure results in injury or damage to another.”
Property owners generally have two basic defenses to slip and fall claims:
- The first defense is that they were not negligent. For example, the owner may claim the water that a patron slipped upon had been dropped on the floor only moments ago by another patron, and that a typical store owner acting with reasonable care would not have had time to discover the danger and take steps to mitigate.
- The second, and more typical defense, is that the person who was injured was at fault. For example, the owner may claim that any reasonable patron, exercising due diligence for his or her own safety, would see the water spilled on the floor and take the steps necessary to avoid slipping on it.
In either defense example, it seems you have a reasonable argument. The problem with slippery floors, bathtubs, pool decks, etc., is that the owner or manager will always be aware that certain surfaces are dangerous when they become wet.
When it rains, a manager puts out wet floors signs near the entrance. When the restaurant mops the floor, the manager displays signs that say: Caution Wet Floor. When something is spilled, the grocery store manager puts out wet floor signs.
It’s evident that these big, gaudy looking signs are not being displayed for their aesthetic value. They are used to alert patrons that the floors are slippery and dangerous. With the knowledge that these surfaces are dangerous when wet, coupled with the fact that you place signs to warn people, it is evident that you are already aware that the floors are dangerous when they are wet.
However, an barrister could make the case that even though the floor was wet, and even though you displayed a sign, you knew there was a problem but you did not fix it. A sign is just a band aid is not, in the eyes of the law, ‘reasonable care.’
You have options to fix your slippery floor, things like anti slip tile treatments and non slip floor coatings will not only reduce the risk of a slip and fall but also reduce the likelihood of a case making it to court. So before you find yourself in Court defending a negligence claim, contact a professional who will assess and provide the right treatment and also written documentation that you have taken appropriate steps to meet your duty of care compliance.