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Business Pays for Poor Staff Training in Slip and Fall Case


This “slip and fall” personal injury claim was brought after a customer of the Chopped Leaf Restaurant in Kelowna slipped on an unknown food item (Robinson v. 1390709 Alberta Ltd.,2017 BCCA 175). The Court of Appeal has confirmed two important elements in establishing negligence in slip and fall cases:

  1. It is not good enough for a business to have only hands-on training for staff during the course of their work.
  2. A customer only has to prove the existence of debris on the floor not the exact substance.

As the Court of Appeal has made clear:

[6] In the case at bar, the plaintiff was unable to say exactly what she had slipped on. The defendant thus argued that it was insufficient for her to say she had slipped on “something” that was slimy and that the court should not speculate about what had caused her fall…

[7] The trial judge in the case at bar… [observed] that Ms. Robinson was able to state that the substance on the floor was “noticeably different than water and that it had the distinct consistency of a food item.” He did not regard this as “speculation or theorizing” on the plaintiff’s part and quoted the following passage from this court’s decision in Sinow v. Maple Ridge Square Shopping Centre Ltd. [1990] B.C.J. No. 743:

… It is not a particular type of debris that the occupier must concern himself with, rather it is debris generally which creates a risk of a slip and fall such as happened here that he must concern himself with. The trial judge found as a fact, and this is not challenged by the appellant, that the respondent slipped and fell on a leaf or leaves; or to put it another way she slipped and fell as a result of a form of debris on the floor in the common area that created a risk of harm. [At para. 5.] 

The Chopped Leaf, located on Bernard Avenue in Kelowna, B.C., is a fast-food style restaurant which provides customers with made-to-order salads. The claimant stopped at the Chopped Leaf to have dinner. According the the claimant there were two employees, one male and one female, working in the restaurant when they arrived. Shortly after they entered the restaurant, the female employee left the front counter area where customers’ meals were prepared, and disappeared into the back of the restaurant.

The claimant ordered and then sat down at a table near the front door to the restaurant. After the claimant had finished his meal, he got up from his table and began walking towards the front door. This is what the claimant said happened next:

[21]  As I walked toward the door, I was looking at the door expecting to reach for the handle and open the door. [Ms. H] was walking behind me. As I neared the door, I put my left foot down and felt it slip forward suddenly. I definitely felt something slimy and thicker than liquid under my foot, and felt it slide as my left foot slid forward. I could not lift my left foot because it was already too far in front when I started to react to the slip. I tried to correct my balance by shifting my weight forward but my left foot was out in front of me and I fell heavily onto my back and left side.

This business was found 100% at fault for not having reasonable system in place to avoid hazards and for not properly following the system on the day in question.

Posted by Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.

Tags: occupier liability, Presumption of Negligence, Rules of Evidence, Unusual Danger in Slip and Fall

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