ALDI Foods Pty Ltd v Young [2016] NSWCA 109

 

Facts

In 2009, Ms Young was tripped by a pallet jack at an Aldi store and sustain injuries to her back, shoulder and right knee. The pallet Jack was in a main-aisle and blocked access to a cross-aisle and it was used by the store staff to replenish stock on the shelves.

 

Ms Young and Aldi’s employee gave conflicting versions of a conversation held between them shortly before the incident. Ms Young said she wanted to get some strawberries and she was directed by the store staff to walk behind him verbally in conjunction with hand gestures. She said she followed the store staff’s direction by walking behind him and thus directly into the path of the pallet. She subsequently stumbled and fell because of the prongs protruding from the pallet jack.

 

However, the store staff claimed that he had told Ms Young with hand gestures that she would need to walk towards the back of the store and across another aisle because he was blocking the aisle.

 

Main issues & Arguments

The main issue before the Court was whether Aldi should have done something regarding the risk associated with the presence of the pallet jack so that Ms Young would not trip herself and fall.

 

Ms Young alleged that Aldi had breached its duty of care to her by placing the pallet jack in a position to obstruct the aisle, failing to warn her of the presence of the pallet jack and failing to place barricades between the pallet jack and customers.

 

Aldi denied a breach of duty of care and also pleaded that there is no duty to warn of obvious risk as well as contributory negligence because she failed to keep any adequate look out for her own safety, take heed of the presence of the pallet jack.

 

Court’s Findings

The Court found there had been a breach of duty of care by Aldi because:

  • The CCTV footage supported Ms Young’s description of the facts as above-mentioned;
  • the pallet jack could have easily been positioned where it did not obstruct access to the aisles of the store;
  • Aldi should have warned Ms Young of the presence of the pallet jack;
  • Aldi ought reasonably to have anticipated that customers would not always be attentive to their own safety or immediately conscious of what was going on around them.

Outcome

In total, the Court awarded Ms Young over $110,000.

 

Lessons

The Courts have generally had a strong emphasis on the importance of the plaintiffs exercising reasonable care for their own safety. However, this case demonstrates that the occupiers must exercise reasonable care to adopt safety measures prevent incidents in the premises taking into account the possibility that the customers will sometimes be inattentive.