Pretoria - The Boxer Superstore company was ordered by the court to pay damages to a shopper who was injured when she slipped and fell on cake flour that had spilled on the floor.
Caymore Pete turned to the Eastern Cape High Court, where she sued the store chain for damages, claiming the store was negligent as it failed to clean up the flour on the floor in time as not to cause a danger to shoppers.
Pete told the court that she was doing some shopping for her grandmother in September 2020 when she slipped and fell. Boxer stores denied any responsibility and told the court that Pete simply did not look where she was walking.
Pete testified that on the day of the incident, the store was very busy, as it was during the social grants payment period.
The inside floors of the store were surfaced with tiles which were non-slippery.
She was wearing flat pump ladies shoes, and as she often shopped at this outlet in a mall, she knew her way around the store. On this day she did her normal shopping and went to the till to pay. The cashier told her that because she had bought viennas, she was entitled to a free packet of hot-dog buns.
Pete went back to fetch the buns at the bakery section. A few steps from the till, at the luxury aisle section, as she turned the corner, she slipped and fell. She noticed the spillage of cake flour only after her fall.
Two employees of the shop assisted her to a room, where she was given medical assistance.
While Pete admitted that she was in a hurry as she did not want to keep the cashier waiting, she was adamant that she would not have fallen if it had not been for the flour on the floor.
A cleaner at the supermarket, who said it was her duty to keep the floors clean, denied that there was flour on the floor.
She, however, admitted that there were flour packets in the area where Pete had slipped. It emerged that one of the packers was at the time stacking the flour packets in the aisle.
It was conceded by her that some flour could have spilled from the packets as they were packed on the shelves.
Counsel for the supermarket argued that there was no obvious hazard in the store which endangered the shoppers. He said it could not be expected of the store to inspect each and every corner to see whether there was a spillage.
The court said the employees of the store had a legal duty to keep the floor clean and free of hazards to the shoppers.
The judge said the mere fact that the cleaner said she did not see the spillage, did not absolve Boxer Superstores of its legal duty.
Although Pete said she did not see the flour before she had slipped, the judge noted that the tiles were white, and that the white flour on the floor may not immediately be visible. This was significant, the court said, especially given the fact that Pete was walking at a fast pace to the bakery department.
The court concluded that on the probabilities, the flour spillage occurred when the bags were being packed and the store’s employees failed to clean up the flour.
The judge said shoppers inside a store focus their attention on the goods on the shelves and not by looking at the floor to ensure it was safe.
It was not difficult to keep the floors clean, and as the shop was very busy and under the circumstances leaving the flour on the floor created a dangerous hazard to the shoppers.
The amount of damages payable to Pete will be determined at a later stage when the aspect relating to her injuries is before court.