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Pick n Pay: Retailer must compensate Springbok legend's wife after fall

| Legislation

by Ahmed Areff – News24

Pick n Pay has been found liable by the Western Cape High Court for damages claimed by Maria Williams, wife of the late Springbok winger Chester Williams, who was injured after slipping and falling at one of its supermarkets.

The court, however, also found that Pick n Pay - which had been ordered to pay Williams' legal costs - was entitled to a declaratory order confirming that its third-party cleaning service, Bluedot, is liable to indemnify the retailer in accordance with a previous agreement between the two.

The amount Williams claimed has not been quantified yet, as she suffered "certain orthopaedic injuries" she received treatment for and will require more of later. She claimed damages for pain and suffering, as well as for past and future medical expenses.

According the court ruling, handed down on Friday, Williams was shopping at the Pick n Pay at the N1 City Mall in Goodwood in November 2017 when the incident happened. She was at the till when she remembered she needed an electric fly repellent. She went down one aisle to collect it, and when she was coming down a different aisle she slipped in some liquid on the floor. She fell on her left side and was in some "considerable discomfort and unable to get back on her feet immediately".

"The plaintiff testified that [the customer services manager] … and some of the other employees were most concerned that the incident would attract adverse media publicity given her quasi-celebrity status. They asked the plaintiff not to go to the media and assured her that Pick n Pay would compensate her for her medical expenses. However, Pick n Pay did not make good on those promises of compensation," the ruling said.

In proceedings Pick n Pay denied any liability, saying Williams' fall "was due to her sole negligence in that she failed to keep a proper lookout, [and] failed to take reasonable steps to prevent her fall and failed to avoid injury to herself". It also said it outsourced the cleaning duties and functions at that store to Bluedot, who, it had been agreed, would be liable to anyone injured as a "consequence of its failure to properly discharge its cleaning function".

Bluedot, on the other hand, presented evidence it said explained the steps it took on the day in question in discharging it contractual responsibilities to Pick n Pay. 

"It is no answer, in the circumstances, for Pick n Pay to say that it had appointed an independent contractor to clean its floors and that it had thus taken all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of its customers," the court ruled.

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