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A man was paid R150,000 after being hit by a trolley at Spar – and his story’s not that uncommon




The Mercury recently reported on the case of a 78-year old man who was injured during a Sunday morning shopping trip.


Staff Writer | Business Tech

According to the report, the man was injured when a worker pushing an industrial trolley piled high with boxes collided into him.

The knock caused him to bump into the frozen chicken freezer and onto the ground.

As a result, the man suffered a hip and spine injury, and several abrasions.

In addition to receiving medical treatment, the man said that he is still suffering from the after-effects of the crash and will also need future surgery.

Following the incident, he instituted a R400,000 damages claim against the store, but the issue was ultimately resolved out of court with the man receiving R150,000 in settlement.

Not unusual

While this may read like a case straight from the highly litigious USA, personal injury claims of this type are relatively common in South Africa.

This is according to Kirstie Haslam, a director at DSC attorneys, a firm which specialises in personal injury law.

“Whilst not as commonplace as other forms of personal injury matters, such as motor vehicle accident related injuries, medical malpractice or even police shootings and assaults, these kinds of cases are not unusual at all,” said Haslam.

“I am presently acting for a number of people who were injured in differing circumstances whilst visiting supermarkets.”

It can, however, be very tricky holding the supermarket liable, particularly for example where they have contracted out to independent cleaning services – this is a strategy purposefully employed to escape liability, as spillages and similar events are most often the root cause of injuries sustained on supermarket premises, she said.

“Fortunately for the gentleman in question, the circumstances of the incident were such that liability was clear-cut, although it is frustrating to note that the action was defended right up to the doors of court, another familiar strategy employed by supermarket groups and/or their public liability insurers,” she said.

Haslam added that there had been a definite increase in people are more ‘rights conscious’ and therefore more inclined to seek legal advice for these types of incidents.

However, this increased awareness and desire to hold the wrongdoers to account is not unique to supermarket-related incidents.

“This is certainly not an unusual or even particularly high damages award, given the nature and severity of (the man’s) injuries which appear to have been significant,” she said.

“The amount was probably made up of a sum in respect of medical and related expenses as well as general damages for pain and suffering; at first blush – without more specific information relating to exactly what treatment was (undertaken) or anticipated in the future – the settlement appears to be quite conservative.”

Going to court

Haslam said that there are also a number of considerations when taking a personal injury claim to court instead of opting for a settlement.

“This is quite a complex question, as it really comes down to considering the issue of ‘risk’ in litigation,” she said.

“Going to court and running a full trial can be an expensive undertaking and one always has to weigh up the prospects of success and likely outcome.

“In some instances, it may be advisable to accept a slightly lower amount of compensation in order to avoid lengthy and costly litigation. A court obviously judges a matter blindly, meaning it is unaware of what (if any) settlement discussions have taken place between the parties.

“If that court ultimately awards an amount equal to or less than what was offered, the plaintiff could end up having to bear a portion of the defendant’s costs, which can be devastating. In all instances, be it in or out of court, all potential heads of damage need to be considered.”

These would include medical/hospital expenses (incurred and anticipated), lost earnings (again, incurred and anticipated), as well as general damages for pain and suffering and loss of amenities of life, she said.

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