Penningtons Manches LLP has recently recovered damages for an elderly client who sustained serious injury following a fall in a shopping centre customer car park, resulting in surgery and permanent impaired mobility.
Our client had been at a local shopping centre with her daughter. On completing their shopping and walking back to their vehicle across the car park our client tripped over a metal fixture that had been left protruding from the ground in the car park. It transpired that the metal fixture used to be the base of a pole supporting a cover for shopping trolleys that had been removed sometime prior to accident. However, the bases of several supporting poles were left protruding from the ground presenting a hazard. These were not flagged, the area was open to customers to walk across and the warning notice relating to the protrusions were neither clear to see nor notably raised above the hard surface. Shortly following our client’s accident, all the protrusions were removed from the surrounding area and the area levelled out and resurfaced.
The specialist personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP investigated and pursued a civil claim on behalf of our client given the severity of injury and likely long term impact. The difficulty with this claim was that there were multiple defendants who each denied responsibility for the inspection, repair and maintenance of the relevant area.
The claim subsequently proceeded against three defendants: the freehold owner of the shopping centre, the managing agents instructed by the freehold owner, and the tenant and occupier of the supermarket. All defendants denied responsibility for the area and each in turn argued that the car park and removal of the shopping trolley cover was one and/or another of the alternative defendant’s responsibility. Each denied their involvement in the removal of the shopping trolley cover in any event. In addition, each defendant alleged the protrusion did not constitute a hazard and/or a tripping defect if either defendant was found responsible for the area.
Given the strong dispute in relation to liability and, despite numerous attempts to deal with the matter proportionately, we had no option but to issue proceedings against the multiple defendants because of the unresolved liability position and the various arguments put forward by the defendants. Settlement was only reached 48 hours before trial was due to take place when an offer made by the claimant was accepted.
Philippa Luscombe, partner in the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: ''This was a difficult case given the approach adopted by the proposed defendants, despite what we felt to be an obvious hazard at the shopping centre. It was disappointing they didn’t take a sensible view earlier on in proceedings but, given their stance, we had no option but to proceed to trial. We were confident our client would succeed at trial and, while liability was never formally resolved, the settlement figure paid reflected liability in our view. This was important to our client and her family and we are delighted to have achieved a very good settlement although this will not give our client back the mobility and independence that she has lost as a result of this avoidable accident."