A Queensland woman won $14,900 in compensation last month after she was struck by a shopping trolley that was being pushed by a Woolworths employee.
The accident occurred back in 2011 at the Woolworths store in Tewantin, a suburb of Noosa, but the Queensland District Court awarded the compensation on May 24 this year.
Plaintiff Carol Rushton told the court she was shopping at Woolworths when she was hit by a trolley on her left side with “absolutely horrendous” force.
Rushton said she was knocked back “about six feet” and has since experienced extreme pain in her left knee and hip.
In addition, she told the court she has required extensive medical treatment, has been unable to complete home duties by herself and has been reliant on her husband.
Woolworths accepted liability for the incident.
The reason for the decision
However, the court heard it was difficult to determine whether the woman’s ongoing issues with her hip are a direct result of the accident.
Evidence was submitted that suggested a “degenerative condition” has developed in her left knee over time, which could be the cause of her hip problems.
As a result, the court decided the accident caused immediate damage to Rushton’s hip, and an acceleration of the degenerative condition in her left knee “by up to two years”.
“The evidence does not support any allowance for the hip condition beyond 20 May 2013 and certainly not in respect of the further injection in late 2014,” the judgment reads.
Because of this, the court decided Rushton was entitled to $14,917.12 in damages.
What are the lessons for business owners?
Nick Stone, partner at Stone Group Lawyers, told SmartCompany it’s important businesses go above and beyond state and federal legislative requirements when it comes to creating a safe environment for patrons.
This is because the courts take a “fairly wide” interpretation of what a business’s duties are, and each case is assessed on its own merits and established facts.
“It’s important from a workplace perspective that there are policies and procedures internally to try to mitigate risk,” Stone says.
“Failing to mitigate the risk can also add to the damages that might be awarded. Quite often, these customers might have been able to mitigate their risk by doing something, but the companies themselves are in a much stronger position [to do so].”
SmartCompany contacted Woolworths for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.
SmartCompany attempted to contact Rushton through her lawyers but did not receive a response prior to publication.