By Elizabeth Byrne.
Coles Supermarkets has been ordered to pay more than $1 million to a former worker injured after she fell off a safety step.
The 34-year-old woman had only been working at the Canberra store for about a month in 2009 when she fell while straightening shelves.
The ACT Supreme Court heard she fell on her right side injuring her hip, and after several bouts of medical treatment the hip had to be replaced.
The woman told the court she had no training in using the step and had simply copied what another worker had done.
Lawyers for Coles told the court the safety step was used by supermarkets across Australia, and was an obvious piece of equipment for which no training was required.
But Justice Linda Ashford did not agree.
“The main thrust of the plaintiff’s submissions is that the plaintiff was not trained, or properly trained, in the use of the step,” she wrote.
“Calling a step a safety step does not make it so.”
Lawyers for Coles also suggested the woman had not been as badly hurt as she said.
But Justice Ashford rejected their argument in favour of the woman.
“The defendant submits the plaintiff to be exaggerating her symptoms,” she wrote.
“I did not believe the plaintiff to be other than straightforward in her evidence.
“Clearly this has been a significant injury and the plaintiff will have continuing problems with her hip, leading almost inevitably to further hip replacement surgery.”
She found Coles was liable for the accident.
“I am satisfied the risk of harm was reasonably foreseeable, and the risk was not insignificant,” she said.
Justice Ashford awarded the woman $1,088,468.53 in compensation, with $570,229 to cover past and future economic loss, $222,200 in general damages and $236,039 for past and future medical expenses.