Pretoria - The Pretoria High court has ruled a sports pub in Centurion liable to pay damages to a patron who slipped in the bathroom on an “unknown wet substance” and dislocated his shoulder.
Centurion resident Jamie Percy Hazel, 23, claimed R170 000 in damages from BJ’s Sport Pub following the incident on June 28, 2009.
Judge Moses Mavundla ruled the restaurant liable for Hazel’s damages, but the amount payable to him will be determined at a later stage.
Hazel told the court the restaurant and its employees had a legal duty towards its patrons to take reasonable care to prevent injury or harm as a result of wet floors on its premises. In the case of wet floors, they should at least warn people of the potential danger, he said.
The restaurant, in its defence, claimed it did take all reasonable steps to warn patrons and staff of wet floors. It claimed that Hazel had consumed a substantial amount of alcohol that day and his slipping was not because of its negligence.
Hazel testified that he, his girlfriend and their families went to the pub that afternoon to watch rugby. He went to the bathroom and slipped on an unknown substance. He said he had only had four beers by that time and was not inebriated.
He told the court he did not see anyone cleaning the toilets. He fell backward and landed on his shoulder. He was taken to Unitas Hospital.
Dave Elison, who was with Hazel, testified that the men’s toilets were muddy, there were “scuff marks” on the floor and the lighting was not very good. He also insisted that Hazel was not drunk.
Lizett Hazel, the plaintiff’s mother, testified that she left the pub early but noticed that outside the passage to the bathroom it was wet. She informed management that the place needed cleaning.
Elsie Maseko, a former pub employee, said her duties included cleaning the toilets and washing the dishes. When there were rugby matches, the toilets would get very dirty and she had to clean them.
She told Judge Mavundla that she cleaned the toilets without being provided with gloves when a patron had vomited or messed up.
She often had to work overtime on Saturdays when the pub was full. Then the toilets would be “dirty and watery and the floors littered with broken glass”. Maseko said she was the only one who cleaned the toilets.
Barren Jacobs, owner of the restaurant, testified that the Hazel incident was never reported to him, although he was on duty the entire night. He only came to know of it when he received the summons.
He said if there is an injury to restaurant patrons, Netcare would be called and assess the injuries and take the person to hospital.
Jacobs said if there was water or the floor was dirty, someone would immediately clean it up and there would be signs put up that the floor was wet. Jacobs said the pub became very busy when there were big rugby matches. When it was busy, one urinal would be used by about 25 people in four hours. He and his manager would sometimes jump in and clean the toilets themselves.
Jacobs denied Maseko’s evidence that she had to clean all the dirty toilets. He said she was a disgruntled former employee.
Judge Mavundla said the restaurant was obliged to guard against foreseeable harm to the public. “One person running around to clean glasses and at the same time clean the toilets - especially on busy rugby days - is not adequate to eliminate the potential danger of slipping presented by wet tiles.”