Aldi Foods Pty Ltd v Young  NSWCA 109
On 22 July 2009, a 52 year old woman named Susan Young was shopping at an Aldi Supermarket in New South Wales.
An employee of Aldi was unpacking and restocking strawberries from a ‘pallet jack’ trolley. The pallet jack was placed in a cross-aisle, which was blocking access to another aisle. Ms Young attempted to go around the pallet jack and stumbled forward and fell. She injured her back, shoulder and right knee.
Ms Young issued legal proceedings against Aldi in the District Court of New South Wales. She alleged she had not seen the pallet jack tines protruding from under the boxes.
Ms Young argued that Aldi had breached its duty of care to her, by placing the pallet jack down the middles of the aisle. The pallet jack was placed in such a position that it obstructed access to the cross-aisle, and failed to warn her of its presence.
Aldi denied any breach of duty. It relied on subsections 5F, 5G and 5H of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW), and argued that the pallet jack was an “obvious risk”.
In the initial proceedings, the Court found in favour of Ms Young and awarded damages in the sum of $135,000. A reduction of 10% was made for contributory negligence.
However, Aldi appealed the primary judge’s findings on liability to the New South Wales Court of Appeal.
On appeal, the court upheld the judgment of the District Court judge, and stated that:
…The appellant ought reasonably to have anticipated that customers would not always be attentive to their own safety or immediately conscious of what was going on around them. They are likely to include people who are rushing, who are distracted as they move about the store or who are directing their attention to the product or products displayed around them…Such a shopper would not necessarily notice the tines of the pallet jack close to the floor….
Aldi’s appeal as to liability was dismissed.
What does this all mean for shopkeepers?
Whilst customers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own safety, occupiers such as Supermarkets should allow for the possibility that customers will sometimes be inattentive, and should adopt measures to prevent accidents from occurring.