“… it is by now long established in our law that the owner or other person or entity in control of a shopping mall has a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that its premises are ‘reasonably safe’ for those members of the public who might frequent them … What such steps may be will depend on the circumstances.” (Extract from judgment below)
The Festive Season is once more upon us, cueing shops, shopping centres and malls packed with ever-growing crowds of shoppers.
What happens if you fall while shopping and hurt yourself? Our law reports are full of cases where shops are sued for damages following “slips” and “trips”, and a recent High Court case confirms once again that as a general rule shops and malls are liable to keep their visitors from harm.
A broken elbow from a slip on a wet mall floor
What about “enter at your own risk” disclaimer notices?
Another defence raised was that there were “enter entirely at your own risk” type disclaimer notices “prominently displayed” at all entrances to the mall. The shopper denied having noticed any such notices either on the day in question or on previous visits to the mall, and the Court found that the mall owner and manager had failed to prove that –
The bottom line for shop and mall owners
Take all reasonable steps to keep your visitors from harm and ensure that you have adequate and prominent disclaimer notices displayed at all times. Keep these notices updated – one of the mall owner’s problems in this case was that the disclaimer notices were old and still in the name of a previous owner.
The bottom line for shoppers
As this judgment shows, you have to jump through a number of loops to establish a claim. Besides, shops and malls by their very nature present dangers to the unwary – spillages, items dropped on the floor, wet and slippery surfaces and the like are common and if you don’t keep your eyes open and your wits about you, you run the risk of a court holding you fully or partially liable for your own misfortune. In that event it could dismiss your claim or at most only award you part of your damages on the basis of your “contributory negligence”.
Worse, you could have no claim at all if a court finds you bound by an “enter at your own risk” disclaimer sign.
So – enjoy your Festive Season shopping, but Safety First!
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)