Sport shop liable for customer’s slip and fall

Published Jun 27, 2024


A customer at a Sportscene shop in Mthatha, who was injured when she slipped and fell on a wet mat at the entrance to the premises, instituted a damages claim against Sportscene, as she alleged that the fall was due to its negligence.

Nondumiso Myathaza suffered the injuries in December 2019, when she was about to enter the store.

She told the Eastern Cape High Court, sitting in Mthatha, that she had slipped on a mat that had been wet from rain.

Myathaza said she had injured her left ankle as a result of the fall.

Sportscene denied liability and alleged that Myathaza had tripped over her own legs outside the premises and had fallen into the entrance of Sportscene.

The plaintiff’s version is that she had gone to Sportscene to purchase some clothing items on a rainy day. When she had reached the entrance to Sportscene, she had shaken the rain off her umbrella outside the premises before turning to go inside.

The entrance to Sportscene was on her left side.

She further alleged that she had turned to left and had walked into the store. After she had taken three or so steps, she had slipped on the mat at the entrance which was wet. She had fallen and broken her left ankle.

After she had fallen, she had rolled around in pain a few times before coming to a halt at the entrance, with her legs outside the store. She was not certain whether she had taken three or four steps before she had slipped and fallen, but she was certain that she had slipped on the mat and fallen inside the premises of Sportscene.

While she had been lying on the floor, she had felt that her legs were wet from the mat.

The defendant’s version of the incident, according to the witness who testified on behalf of Sportscene, Ronetha Gonzalves, was that she had been standing near the entrance where Myathaza had fallen.

She had seen Myathaza approaching the entrance and, subsequently, falling.

Gonzalves said Myathaza had not slipped on the mat inside the premises but had fallen outside the premises when she had crossed her right leg over her left, thereby tripping and falling.

She had testified that Myathaza had fallen into the shop after she had tripped over her own legs, and that was how she had injured herself.

A friend of Myathaza, who worked nearby, testified that she had received a telephone call from a client of hers that the plaintiff had been injured.

She had hurried to Sportscene to see if she could assist the plaintiff. When she had arrived there, Myathaza had been lying on the floor on the mat to the entrance of Sportscene and crying in pain.

She said her friend had told her that she had slipped on the mat and fallen. She had bent down and felt that the mat was wet.

Acting Judge DV Pitt said he was satisfied that the plaintiff’s version was the most probable. She had testified that she had not not tripped over her own legs before she had fallen. She had also testified that she had slipped on the wet mat.

Further, she had given evidence that she had fallen on her left side, which the shop’s witness had confirmed. From the pictures handed to court, it was clear that there had been water on the tiles or cobble pavers just before the mat. It was most probable that there had been water tracked onto the mat at the entrance to Sportscene, the judge said.

A shop employee testified that the purpose of the mat was to trap dirt and water. Judge Pitt said that in all probability, the mat had trapped the water tracked onto it by the customers who had walked into Sportscene that day.

“A mat, even a non-slip mat, which was wet from the rainwater tracked onto it by wet shoes will most probably become slippery and its grip function become impeded by the water.”

He noted that Myathaza had testified that her legs had been wet from the water while she had been lying on the mat after her fall.

She had also said that after she had fallen, she had rolled about in pain and that had been why she had ended up lying with her feet outside the entrance, as depicted in one of the pictures. It explained why the plaintiff had not been lying inside the premises with her whole body at the time.

The version of the plaintiff was far more probable and tied in with the factual position where she had been found after the fall, the judge said in finding that the business was 100% liable for the damages which she could prove she had suffered.

Pretoria News