On 14 December 2016, news.com.au reported on a New South Wales District Court judgement whereby a Plaintiff by the name of Sanjeeta Guru sued Coles after slipping on a grape in their western Sydney supermarket located in Cambridge Park.
News.com.au reports that although a very large claim was made, Ms Guru won her case and was awarded $90,000 or thereabouts by District Court Judge Levy.
His Honour Judge Levy found that Coles were negligent as the area where the Plaintiff slipped was not satisfactorily monitored and cleaned prior to Ms Guru’s injury.
Is a ‘win’ really a win?
This blog article does not aim to provide commentary as to the merits of whether Coles were negligent or not, the purpose of this article is to provide some advice about the process of making a public liability claim and whether a “win” is indeed a win.
This may seem unusual but the Legal Profession Act restricts the recovery of legal costs where the damages are less than $100,000. In this case, Ms Guru’s damages are well below $100,000 and therefore the legal costs that Coles have to pay are significantly smaller than if Ms Guru had achieved a judgement of $100,001 or more. The consequence of this means that out of the $90,000, there will be repayments to Medicare and medical practitioners, perhaps Centrelink, as well as a significant payment to her lawyers for theirs fees and disbursements, such as medical reports and expert engineering reports that may have been necessary to obtain in running this claim.
The legal costs can be very expensive and if a claim does not reach this $100,000 threshold, which many people do not despite being fairly seriously injured, this Plaintiff may not walk away from her case with anything near this $90,000 judgement.
It is therefore always good to reflect as to when a matter should proceed to Court or whether settlement of a case should be seriously considered. Your lawyer should be able to recognise, based on the medical evidence and other material, whether a case will exceed this $100,000 threshold or not and if it is unlikely to, then they should take substantial and significant steps in attempting to resolve the case without getting penalised after a court hearing.
Incidentally to this matter, both parties have rights to appeal the decision of the District Court Judge and take the decision to the New South Wales Court of Appeal. If this occurs there is again consequences for winning or for losing cases, and it may be that Coles wish to take this matter further, disputing they were negligent at all with this Plaintiff slipping on a grape in their store. Conversely, the Plaintiff may wish to appeal because the damages awarded may be grossly inadequate based upon the evidence and circumstances of her particular case.
Let us hope that news.com.au follow the progress of this case if it proceeds to the Court of Appeal.
If you have slipped and injured yourself in a shopping centre or public place, you should not be discouraged about lodging a claim. You should speak to one of our expert lawyers at Turner Freeman who can provide you with practical and sensible advice about obtaining compensation in your particular situation without unnecessarily accumulating legal costs. We understand the balance between sensible and practical advice, and the need for rigorous representation if cases cannot be resolved.