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Shops are busy places and injuries often occur with slips and trips on substances such as fruit or liquid products that have found their way onto the floor. If someone skids on this and hurts themselves, how likely are they to succeed in claiming compensation for their injury?

Proprietors of shops have a duty, both at common law and under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, to take reasonable steps to keep their premises safe for visitors. They cannot, however, be expected to prevent every accident because that would be impossible, and would impose too high a duty on them.

In Ward v Tesco [1976], Mrs Ward was injured in Tesco when she slipped on yogurt that had been spilt by another shopper. The Court of Appeal found that Tesco was in breach of its duty to Mrs Ward because it did not have a system of regular inspections to check for spillages and other hazards that could be a danger to customers.

Even small shops may be criticised for lacking a proper procedure. In Piccolo v Larkstock Ltd [2007], Mr Piccolo slipped on flower petals in front of a florist’s stall on a railway station concourse. The court said that the stallholder had breached his duty because there was no effective, proactive system in place for dealing with spillages.

Major supermarkets (including, unsurprisingly, Tesco) now have rigorous inspection systems in place ensuring that every aisle is checked several times a day. When a hazard does cause an accident, they will escape liability if they can demonstrate by their inspection records that they have done all they could reasonably be expected to do to keep their premises safe.

Smaller shops also need to be able to show that they have a proactive system in place if they are to avoid paying compensation to injured customers for slips and trips.

For more information, contact Lyons Davidson’s Accident Claims team.