Q If you are injured in a slip and fall incident at a supermarket how does the Court assess whether the supermarket in question breached its duty of care to you?
The High Court of Australia answered this question in the case of Strong v Woolworths Limited  HCA 5
The plaintiff ordinarily walks with the aid of crutches. At around 12.30 pm, the tip of her right crutch came into contact with a greasy chip that was lying on the floor of the sidewalk in front of a Big W. The crutch slipped out from under her and she fell heavily. Woolworths was in the control of the area in which the plaintiff slipped. The plaintiff brought a claim against Woolworths in negligence.
The plaintiff succeeded at first instance. The primary judge found that Woolworths owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and that the chip had been on the ground long enough for it to be seen by the employee of Woolworths and removed by an adequate cleaning system. It’s failure to do so resulted in the plaintiff’s injury.
The High Court
The majority in the High Court upheld the plaintiff’s claim and in doing so made notable remarks about the operation of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) (the Act) and the nature of slip and fall matters.
Onus of proof in spillage matters
The High Court found that in these circumstances, and in other similar spillage matter it is not necessary for the plaintiff to show that the chip or foreign object remained on the floor for long enough that should have been detected and removed with the operation of a cleaning system. Rather, they found that the plaintiff would satisfy the onus of proving that Woolworths was negligent if it demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that the chip had been on the floor for a greater length of time than the minimum period in which cleaning checks were done. In this case a reasonable inspection routine should not have exceeded 20 minutes or so.