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Department must pay up after woman slipped, fell, fractured arm at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre

A woman fractured her arm when she slipped and fell on a veranda at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

A woman fractured her arm when she slipped and fell on a veranda at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 22, 2022

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Pretoria - The Department of Justice and Correctional Services must pay up after a woman fractured her arm when she slipped and fell on a veranda at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre in Pretoria.

The incident happened as the machine with which an inmate was cleaning the floor squirted soapy water in her pathway.

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Judge Norman Davis, sitting at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ordered that the department was 80% liable for the damages Sandra Kleinhans could prove that she had suffered.

She was 20% liable for her fall, he said, because she saw that the inmate was cleaning the floor. While she realised it may be slippery, she did not ask her son-in-law, who was with her, for assistance, nor did she hold on to something while negotiating the floor.

The judge commented that she was not a “petite” woman and that while she probably thought she could walk across the wet floor, it may have been better if she had asked for assistance.

Kleinhans, however, told the court she had no idea that the floor-washing machine would suddenly squirt soapy water in her direction when she was close to it.

The judge at this stage only gave judgment on who is liable for her fracturing her arm. The amount of damages will be decided later.

Kleinhans testified that on May 29, 2015, she slipped on a smooth concrete surface, fell and fractured her right upper-arm in two places, but it was denied on behalf of the department that the incident had happened.

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According to Kleinhans, the incident occurred outside the entrance to the supply chain offices at the prison.

It was argued on behalf of Kleinhans that because the prisoner who was cleaning the veranda was in custody, Minister Ronald Lamola, in his official capacity, should be held vicariously liable.

On the day in question, she had been asked by her then son-in-law to accompany him to Johannesburg, after which they went to the prison as he had to do some business there.

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Opposite the entrance, on the left-hand side of the stoep, a person in an orange overall, later identified as an inmate, was cleaning the stoep with an upright, hand-controlled cleaning machine. Noticing this, Kleinhans alerted her son-in-law about it and moved to pass the inmate on the right-hand side where the floor was dry.

When she was about a metre from the inmate, he moved the machine in her direction, causing soapy liquid to squirt from under the machine in her direction, causing her to slip and fall.

She bumped her head against the wall and badly fractured her right humerus. She was taken to hospital.

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An official of the department, who worked at the supply chain department, said she knew nothing about the incident. If it happened, she said, it would have come to her notice and been formally reported to the Occupational Health Safety officer.

The judge, however, concluded that the version of Kleinhans was probable and that she had slipped and fell on the premises.

Judge Davis said the doctor’s report regarding the injuries also confirmed this.

He questioned if the department’s version was to be believed – that Kleinhans fabricated her version. Why would she persist with her version by going through years of litigation and even testify in court?

The judge said he did not need to find that the witnesses for the department had lied, but rather that Kleinhans’ version was more plausible.

Pretoria News

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