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I walk into the supermarket to do some shopping. Someone has dropped a bottle in one of the aisles. The cleaners have already started cleaning the floor with a mop. I walk across the slippery surface, my foot slips and I fall. Do I have a claim against the supermarket owners and if so what kind of claim? The answer to this question is not always obvious.

It is generally accepted that customers in a public place such as a supermarket should be able to enjoy undisturbed shopping and that there should be no obstacles that could cause them injury. Liability is however not always a foregone conclusion and some challenges may arise when attempting to prove liability in a court of law.

Although the general rule is that the supermarket owner must ensure that situations which could cause injury to the customer do not come about, it is only human that such situations will nonetheless arisefrom time to time. It is the duty of the owner of the supermarket to ensure that the customer is properly warned against the impending danger. The owner could and probably should, for example, take measures to demarcate or cordon off the dangerous area until the area is safe. At the same time, the client should be mindful of where he/she walks and cannot complain about being injured whilst in a dangerous place if he/she was aware of such danger. .

Furthermore, a causal nexus must exist between the damage or injury suffered and the negligence of the supermarket owner. For example, if I fall and break my ankle, I cannot then also make a claim for the hip replacement that I had to undergo a year ago.

General damages that include pain, suffering, discomfort and emotional shock may be claimed. This type of damages is abstract in nature and is determined by looking at previous court cases where persons suffered similar types of injuries. Medical expenses and loss of income are further possible damages that may be proved. In addition thereto, a person may also claim for future medical expenses and future loss of income. The last mentioned types of damages are normally proven by presenting expert reports and evidence.

If a customer breaks his glasses or damages a cell phone in the process, he / she may also claim the repair or replacement value of such item.

For more information, contact Barend Kruger at 044 601 9900 or e-mail to