A woman who slipped on what she thought to be Coca-Cola in Woden Plaza and later suffered serious back injuries that made sex painful has lost a lawsuit against the owner of the shopping centre.
The then 29-year-old was walking through the Woden Plaza on Labour Day at 5.15pm in October 2004.
Near the entrance to the Woolworths supermarket, the woman saw a spilt black liquid, thought to be Coca-Cola, on the tiled floor. She tried to avoid it, but slipped and fell onto her left knee, and then her onto bottom.
After trying to tell someone about her fall at the Woolworths service desk she continued on with her shopping.
Later that night, she began to feel pain in her lower back.
The pain became increasingly intense. After consulting her doctor she took two to three weeks off work. Her pain continued for years.
The woman, now 37, said the lasting effects of the injury made sex painful and made becoming pregnant difficult.
Eventually the woman gave birth to a daughter through in vitro fertilisation.
She took action against the owner of the shopping centre, Lend Lease Funds Management, in 2007.
The action alleged the company was negligent and failed to keep the area clean, failed to signpost or clean the spillage, and failed to maintain an adequate cleaning system.
The woman would have been eligible for $104,000 if she had won the case. But the ACT Supreme Court found that the woman had sued the wrong party. She had taken legal action against the owner of Woden Plaza, not the occupier, Lend Lease Property, who managed its day-to-day running.
And Master David Harper said he could find no negligence by Lend Lease Property regardless, as it had ‘‘exercised reasonable skill and care: in choosing its cleaning contractor and arranging the terms of engagement, which included 15-minute cleaning loops of the centre.
‘‘Lend Lease Property would accordingly escape liability for breach of duty of care to the plaintiff as an entrant, if it had been sued,’’ Master Harper found.
The woman has been ordered to pay the legal costs of the defendant and the cleaning contractor.