On 2nd July 2013 Bernadette O’Leary was shopping in her local Dunnes Stores in Clonakilty in Cork for a waterproof canopy. She enquired from a shop assistant as to whether the gazebo she had picked out was waterproof. The sales assistant asked her to follow her and she would find out. As Mrs O’Leary followed the sales assistant she tripped over a fold-away deck-chair that had been left on the shop floor. Bernadette broke her hip from the fall and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Mr Gleeson who was acting for Mrs O’Leary said that the deck-chair had been left on the shop floor prior to packing it on the shelf and this was a breach of the safety statement for Dunnes which states that items should not be left in the aisle to form a hazard.
Dunnes denied liability and it was suggested through their Senior Counsel that Mrs O’Leary should have taken care to look where she was going.
The case was heard in the High Court in Cork. After reviewing the footage from the CCTV Justice Henry Abbot found that Dunnes Stores were liable for Mrs O’Leary’s injuries. Bernadette was awarded €137,000 in compensation for her injury for from the trip and fall.
This is a case that clearly shows that there is a responsibility on the shop owner to ensure that the public areas are safe and uncluttered. It is a fundamental principle that items such as the above are not left unattended in the aisles as they would clearly breach safety regulations and would leave the employer open to actions for negligence.
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