PIPA: inspection / reconstruction of the incident & disclosure

Woolworths Limited v Day & Others [2016] QDC 81

Kingham J

The claimant/first respondent was injured when she slipped on a shallot on the floor of a Woolworths store. The claimant was self-represented.

The application dealt with in part matters arising under the Personal Injuries and Proceedings Act 2002 (Qld) (PIPA) and were, inter alia:

  1. Whether the claimant should be allowed to inspect the Woolworths store;
  2. Whether Woolworths and Retail Activation met their obligation to disclose information.

Inspection of the store

Under the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999 (Qld) (UCPR), the court may make an order to inspect property if it is relevant for deciding an issue in a proceeding. The first respondent sought an order from the court that she be permitted to inspect the store for a number of purposes at [6].

Her Honour categorised the application in this regard into two aspects, namely, inspection and testing of the area of the fall and, inspection of the CCTV monitoring system. As to the former, her Honour said:

[13] It also seems that Mrs Day now wants to perform a reconstruction to test a statement given by the person operating the demonstration table on the day of the fall. He said he saw something green drop from a shopping trolley onto the floor approximately 15 steps away. Mrs Day wants to reconstruct the scene to test whether it is possible for him to have seen this. Why Mrs Day wants to contest this evidence is not clear. It seems consistent with her case that there was a shallot on the floor. In any case, I am not satisfied that a reconstruction is necessary in order to decide an issue in the proceeding.

[14] Ultimately the case against Woolworths will turn on whether it took reasonable steps to deal with the acknowledged risk that a customer might slip on products spilled on the floor. Mrs Day has not explained why inspection and testing of the area in which the fall occurred is necessary for deciding that issue, or any other.

 

As to the inspection of the CCTV monitoring system, the store manager’s statutory declaration said that there was no CCTV footage as the area was not covered by cameras. Pursuant to evidence of cameras in the vicinity, her Honour ordered that Woolworths provide the applicant with a floorplan of the area of the incident showing the location and direction of the cameras.

Disclosure of information

The claimant alleged the other parties had not adequately disclosed information pursuant to s 27(1)(b)(i) of the PIPA which requires disclosure about the circumstance of, or the reasons for, the incident. In finding that only some of the requests were proper requests, her Honour said:

[21] The circumstance of, or the reasons for, the incident are not limited to events contemporaneous to the incident. That phrase is apt to encompass all events which appertain to or are causes of the incident in which the claimant suffers personal injury. The focus of the obligation is upon causation not the nature or scope of the respondent’s duty. Information may be obtained about what a respondent did or did not do. However, requests directed to whether the respondent had a duty to do something, or more, in the lead up to the incident are beyond the scope of s27(1)(b)(i).

 

David Cormack – Brisbane Barrister & Mediator

NB: appeal Day v Woolworths Ltd & Ors [2016] QCA 337 (16/3950) Margaret McMurdo P and Philippides JA and Jackson J 14 December 2016

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