Employer not liable for slip on grape: QCA upholds trial decision
In the recent decision of Deans v Maryborough Christian Education Foundation Ltd  QCA 75, the Queensland Court of Appeal (QCA) upheld a finding that the employer was not liable for the injuries sustained by an employee as a result of slipping on a grape in the employer’s premises. The employer and its workers’ compensation insurer were represented by HopgoodGanim Lawyers’ Insurance team.
As outlined in our previous article, the appellant was a school teacher employed by Riverside Christian College. In 2015, she sustained injuries to her left knee after slipping on a grape when walking in a foyer area between classrooms.
The appellant alleged that the grape had been dropped by a student during a morning fruit break and that the employer ought to have had a system of inspection and cleaning in place during fruit breaks. The employer led evidence that no similar incidents had occurred in the five years since morning fruit breaks had been introduced and that an appropriate system of work was in place with regard to cleaning the school grounds.
In Deans v Maryborough Christian Education Foundation Ltd  QDC 123, the Queensland District Court dismissed the claim and ruled that:
Following this decision, the appellant filed an appeal with the QCA, challenging the finding that there had been no breach of duty of care by the employer.
In a judgment handed down on 3 May 2019, the QCA dismissed the appeal with costs. The leading judgment was delivered by Justice Gotterson, with whom Justices Sofronoff and Morrison agreed.
The appellant had limited success in the QCA, finding:
However the QCA held in favour of the employer, confirming the view of the trial decision that:
On the basis that the QCA found that the risk was insignificant and there were no additional precautions that could have been taken by the employer in the circumstances, the employer was held to have not breached its duty of care to the appellant.
The decision of the QCA provides a further reminder that an employer’s duty of care extends to taking reasonable steps for the safety of workers. Parties commonly involved in “slip and fall claims”, such as educational facilities and supermarket retailers, should be reassured by the findings of the QCA. The decision confirms that, where there is a foreseeable but insignificant risk of injury, it is not incumbent upon employers to take every conceivable measure to avoid that risk.
For more information or discussion, please contact HopgoodGanim Lawyers’ Insurance team.