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Claim put on ice as Keoghs and B&Q successfully defend slip case
Keoghs Corporate Risk Retail team has successfully defended a slip on ice claim at trial, with the judgment proving an important and timely decision as wintery conditions persist throughout the UK.
The case, defended on behalf of B&Q Plc (‘B&Q’), concerned a member of the public who alleged that she slipped on ice whilst in the store’s garden centre. She submitted a significant claim for personal injury, loss of earnings and care, and it was anticipated she would attract sympathy from the court.
Following a thorough pre-litigation investigation B&Q were keen to defend the claim, relying on their system of inspection and winter maintenance policy. The store had been assessed prior to opening and, due to the low temperature and bad weather conditions, the Duty Manager had arranged for the external garden centre to be treated with grit and for appropriate warning signs to be put in place. This was followed up by routine inspections in which the Duty Manager found no presence of ice and deemed no additional action was required. The defence was aided by B&Q obtaining witness evidence from the Manager on the day of the incident.
Photographs taken as part of the post-incident investigation also showed no evidence of ice but clearly depicted both grit and a warning sign positioned less than a metre from the incident.
At trial the judge found that the claimant had not proved that there was ice present at the scene, or that this has caused her to fall.
He also surmised that, even if the claimant had persuaded him that ice was present and had caused her to fall, he would have found in B&Q’s favour.
This was due to a robust defence which left him satisfied that the store’s system of inspection was adequate and fully complied with, whilst the locus was inspected by the Duty Manager just a matter of minutes before the incident with no ice identified at that time.
It was also acknowledged that B&Q had a very robust and comprehensive system for winter maintenance in place and, having heard the defendant’s evidence, he was entirely satisfied that this was an issue taken very seriously by all staff, including the Duty Manager.
The judge concluded by stating that, in his view, there was nothing more that B&Q could have done to prevent the accident occurring.
Snow and ice claims have long been a concern for companies with external areas that can be accessed by the public. Therefore this is a really important decision which shows that snow and ice claims can be defended. With the court rejecting the claim outright and confirming there was nothing more B&Q could have done to prevent the incident, the case is a timely reminder to retailers that bad weather slip incidents are defendable as long as robust systems are in place.
For further information contact Hayley Riach.