23rd Mar 2013

Unfortunately common sense does not prevail in all personal injury claims. Here are a few cases of note: the Wynyard Escalators, the Casuarina Cliff Tops, the Bondi Beach Cases and Shopping Slip and Falls injuries.

The Wynyard Escalators

My client tripped and fell down the old wooden escalators. At the bottom of the escalator there were combs to stop rubbish being deposited in the engine that drives the escalator. The combs sweep the rubbish from the escalator, not into the internal workings of the escalator. The combs were adjustably up or down.

Unfortunately my client’s fingers of one hand passed under the combs (as the combs were not screwed down neat to the stairs; there was about a half inch gap) and my client could not get his hands free until the escalator was stopped manually. The Court held that there was not any requirement on Rail Corp to replace the escalators – that would have cost about $250,000. I think the Court missed the point that all that needed to have been done was to screw the combs down from a half inch to a quarter of an inch.

Casuarina Cliff Tops

A destination promoted as a holiday “must see” to watch beautiful sunsets in the Northern Territory. My client moved towards a grassed area near the edge of the cliffs. Unfortunately the grassed area disguised the fact that there was no ground/ terra firma under the grass and the lady fell approximately 12 metres, snapping her neck.

Her injuries were sadly irrelevant to the primary question – was the responsible authority negligent in failing to fence the cliff tops? The High Court of Australia said “No”; there was no obligation to warn or put up fencing.

Bondi Beach Surfer

A young man dived into the surf between the life saving flags. Unfortunately the Ocean movement has created a channel and sand bank a short distance after entering the water, which could not be seen through the swirling waters. After walking into the water, the young man dived into the water and cracked his head against the sand bank, breaking his neck. A few feet on the other side of the sand bank there were hundreds of surfers oblivious to the potential danger. The Court found that there was no obligation on the relevant Authority to warn surfers.

Shopping Slip and Fall

Shopping Centres are not necessarily responsible for the carelessness of their shopping patrons. Shoppers unintentionally or carelessly allowing food or drink spillage. Unsuspecting visitors then step onto these spillages, potentially falling heavily and sustaining injury.

Courts have held that if the Shopping Centre fails to clean up the food or drink spillage within a reasonable time, then the Shopping Centre will be responsible for the accident and consequential injuries.

The difficulty with these cases is identifying the spilt substance causing the slip and fall, and the period of time it had been left on the ground. A very difficult area of Law.

The theory of compensation is to put an innocent injured victim back in the place where they would have been (in financial terms) had the accident and Injuries not occurred. How does this work when the 3 year old child of a visually impaired/blind mother is crushed and killed by a negligent driver backing out of a driveway? The answer is that it doesn’t work. Health is Wealth. The Parents were gutted.