Coles shopper awarded 90000 after slipping on a grape

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A COLES shopper who slipped on a grape and injured her back while grocery shopping has been awarded more than $90,000 in damages.

Beautician Sangeeta Guru, 40, was walking through the fruit and vegetable section of the Western Sydney supermarket when she her right foot slid forward and she lurched onto the floor, hitting her left knee on a trolley and wrenching her back.

Ms Guru then looked at the bottom of her thong and found some squashed grape, before a staff member approached and admitted she had not had time to clean up, the District Court of NSW heard.

On Wednesday, Judge Leonard Levy found that Coles was negligent and failed to prevent the fallen fruit from posing a hazard when the incident occurred at the Cambridge Gardens store on October 19, 2012, awarding the plaintiff $90,130.

Ms Guru, a mother of two who runs her own beauty salon, had experienced ongoing pain and emotional difficulties concerning her moods since the accident, Judge Levy said in his written decision. She has become an unhappy person. Her sleep is also impaired.

Physical complaints attributed to the accident included neck, back, wrist and shoulder pain and stiffness, pain, swelling and numbness in three fingers, ankle pain with associated occasional swelling and a burning sensation, and constant pain in her right knee.

I find the plaintiff to be impaired in her ability to participate in her pre-injury leisure pursuits, which included gymnasium exercise, hiking, kayaking, swimming, bushwalking, archery and dancing.

Her ability to carry out housework has also been impaired. She uses painkilling medication to cope with her difficulties.

Coles unsuccessfully argued contributory negligence on Ms Gurus part, saying she should have been looking where she was walking.

But Judge Levy said it was reasonable for shoppers to expect supermarket operators to provide a safe environment in which to browse for groceries, and to rely on staff to inspect and clean the floor.

The plaintiff was looking around her for items to purchase. Her surroundings were a supermarket where goods were attractively displayed to induce customers to select particular items for purchase, he wrote.

Whilst it is arguable that a reasonable person in the position of the plaintiff would have kept a proper lookout and cast an eye over the floor area where she was intending to walk, that consideration must be tempered by allowing scope for momentary inattention whilst looking at the goods on display.

The court also rejected Coles argument that Ms Guru had not been to see a specialist for treatment because she was no longer in pain, accepting her evidence that she was on a waiting list to see an orthopedic surgeon, being unable to afford the $395 private consultation fee.

Ms Gurus victory may be bittersweet, though, with the possibility of a hefty legal bill looming after Judge Levy flagged the possibility that a costs order might be varied to account for the fact that she has not succeeded to the extent claimed on many of the items for assessment of damages.

She had originally claimed more than $1 million in damages for economic loss and out-of-pocket expenses, but was found not to be entitled to damages for past economic loss or loss of superannuation.

Her original claim for $20,285 for out-of-pocket expenses was revised down drastically due to a lack of documentary evidence, with the court awarding just $1350.45 for this category of damages.