Mother Awarded €74,000 Following Slip in Store

The mother of a nine-week old infant slipped and fell on the floor of a Centra grocery store during routine cleaning and mopping prior to closing time, the High Court heard in Waterford last week.

Noeleen Phelan (44) a hair dressing instructor at Waterford Institute of Technology, with an address at John’s Green, Kilkenny, was awarded €74,450 and costs in her action for damages against J.G. Retail Ltd., Kilkenny, arising out of the slip and fall on December 15th, 2010.

Barrister Aiden Kelly, SC., for the plaintiff, said his client called at the Centra premises at 9.30pm to buy some groceries. The shop was about to close and her fiancée parked their car outside.

The floor was being mopped prior to closing and at the check out till she turned around and slipped and “flew up in the air”.

The dramatic nature of the incident was captured on CCTV. She came down on her left arm and suffered a fracture.

She was removed to Saint Luke’s Hospital by ambulance and her arm was placed in a plaster cast until January 25th of the following year.

An aggravating aspect of the case was the fact she was due to get married on December 27th that Christmas. Her wedding day was spent in plaster of Paris and her wedding album showed her extreme pain. In October she gave birth to her child by caesarean section in October and her injury made dealing with the child very difficult.

The defence claimed she failed to have regard to a verbal representation that the floor was being mopped. She slipped and was not aware that it was being mopped where she stood.

In evidence, the plaintiff said she was very aware of the wet floor and walked around the store to purposely avoid the wet area. After she fell she could not get up and she felt her hands and arm were wet.

Her arm was broken in two places and she could not lift or bathe her nine-week-old child. The accident ruined her wedding day and her arm was still painful.

In reply to Michael Delaney, SC., for the defendants, the plaintiff said she saw the lady washing the floor but did not notice the ‘yellow man’ warning signs at the entrance and at locations around the store. She did not remember a member of the staff warning her to “mind the floor — it’s wet”.

Consulting Engineer Vincent O’Hara, Waterford, said the accident occurred at a junction in the passageway adjacent to the till.

A number of slip alert tests were carried out and the results indicated the surface had a low potential for slip when dry but had a high potential for slip when wet. It would have been prudent to leave this area or not wash the floor until the premises was closed.

Store manager Justin Mulligan said ‘Yellow Men’ caution signs were put down prior to the floor washing. He remembered a colleague in the store warning the last minute shoppers to watch their step on the wet floor.

Ms. Justice Mary Findley Geoghegan said the defendants accepted they were liable to the plaintiff who was also guilty of contributory negligence.

She was immediately made aware that the floor was wet but she disputed that she was given a repeat warning to take care at the till.

The Judge said she accepted that the plaintiff had a duty of care when made aware that the floor was wet but the fall was caused exclusively by the defendants.

At the time of the accident the plaintiff was breast feeding her nine week old daughter and she had to get married in a cast and was in pain which upset her greatly.

The accident impacted on the enjoyment of her wedding day. The most serious impact was on her ability to breastfeed and care for her infant daughter. This had an adverse impact on her enjoyment of her maternity leave. Her left wrist was still weak and she had reduced flexibility and there was a five per cent diminution in function.

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