'Sampling' often leads to accidents

SHOPPERS shoplifting grapes and dropping milk bottles often cause the supermarket slips resulting in injury payouts totalling $100 million a year.

A Brisbane-based personal injury lawyer also said not every fall equated to a payout and media reports about the number of injury compensation payouts after slipping on shop floors did not mean there was a blowout in the number of claims.

Lawyer Mark O'Connor said suggestions grapes could be banned from supermarkets or sold in sealed bags to prevent accidents would not be a one-step fix for all supermarket slip and fall claims.

The Bennett and Philp Lawyers director said the cause of a fall was often not due to staff actions but customers "sampling" merchandise such as grapes.

"People help themselves to grapes and if one falls on the floor and is not immediately reported to the supermarket staff, then it becomes a safety risk," he said.

"In general, supermarkets have very good systems for cleaning up spills and leaks, but you can't expect the cleaners to be everywhere at the same time.

"If someone slips on a grape it doesn't automatically mean the store is liable. You have to show there was a failure of the store's cleaning systems or staff."

Mr O'Connor said the big supermarket chains had efficient cleaning systems in place, but every hazard came down to whether someone reported it and the cleaning staff removed it as soon as possible.

"Quite often the hazard is caused by shoppers who in effect are shoplifting by sampling items and causing spills, or dropping a container of liquid which spills on the floor," he said.

"Loose grapes on a shiny floor can cause surprisingly harsh injuries - leg, hip and lower back injuries are common. Spilt milk is another culprit."

Mr O'Connor said supermarkets increasingly now had warning signs and anti-slip mats around fruit and liquid displays.

He said leaking refrigerators or leaks from plant displays were also risk generators.

Mr O'Connor said supermarkets could not always foresee customers would steal food items and injury claimants would have to prove the shop knew of a slip hazard and ignored it.

"There is an onus on stores to maintain a safe shopping environment and where a store is aware of a hazard and ignores it then a claimant could have a case, but despite what some might think, a single grape on the floor is not an easy case to run," he said.

"The claimant has to prove the shop knew of the hazard and ignored the problem." 

Topics:  grapes shoplifting supermarkets

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