Supermarket Claim

On Wednesday 7 March 2012, the High Court of Australia handed down its decision Strong v Woolworths Limited [2012] HCA 5, restoring the verdict of the trial judge in District Court.

The appellant, Ms Strong slipped and fell on a greasy potato chip outside the sales area of Big W, Taree. The area was under the control of Woolworths. As a result of the fall, she sustained serious spinal injury.

Ms Strong succeeded in District Court in negligence against Woolworths. Woolworths appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal decided that Ms Strong could not prove Woolworths' negligence which directly caused her injury. The Court of Appeal set aside the District Court judgment.

Ms Strong proceeded to appeal by special leave to the High Court and succeeded.

So What Does it Mean?

From the media reports, we understand that Woolworths is considering the High Court's decision. This decision is also of interest to all shopping centres and supermarkets. The likely immediate response is to review its system of inspection and cleaning, as well as OH&S policy. The high risk areas seem to be food court areas in shopping centres and fruits and vegetables section of supermarkets.
From our point of view, the decision has not altered the legal concepts of negligence.
You still have the onus to prove the following:

  • Defendant owes you a duty of care.
  • Defendant breaches its duty of care towards you either through its action or omission.
  • Harm is established as a result of Defendant's breach of its duty of care.
  • A direct causal connection between harm and the breach of duty of care.


If you found yourself in a similar situation, you should always do the following:

  • Report to the security staff or staff members in the area. Ask for a copy of the incident report.
  • Obtain photographs of the object or susbtance which caused you to slip, trip or fall.
  • If there are witnesses to the incident, ask for their contacts.
  • Call the ambulance or consult a doctor nearby if you are injured.
  • Observe whether there are surveillance cameras in the vicinity.