ACT Slip and fall - what is reasonable action?

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14 August 2018
A family member was involved in a slip-and-fall incident at a grocery store. Chris has received conflicting advice on the strength of his case and has decided not to pursue while he seeks further legal advice. I would appreciate some advice.

The incident occurred several months ago. Trolley staff were returning a line of trolley’s to the store, which blocked the entry and prevented Chris from entering the store. Staff separated the trolleys indicating that Chris could enter the store. In doing so they dislodged a grape from the trolley. Chris slipped on the grape and landed heavily on his hip, arm and shoulder. The fall caused significant damage to his shoulder. The specialist assessment is that surgery will not fully repair the damage and Chris can no longer work. Chris is a career tradesman.

The store has denied liability for Chris’ injuries on the basis that the grape had fallen out of the trolley only seconds before he slipped and fell. And no reasonable system of cleaning or inspection could have prevented the injury. I would accept this rationale if the grape had fallen out of a random customer’s trolley. But staff had control and responsibility for the trolleys and their contents at the time of the injury. Wouldn’t this lead to a greater standard in terms of duty of care, particularly as the trolleys were being moved through a high-traffic area of the store?

It will likely be argued that a reasonable inspection might not have detected an item as small as a grape. However in the case of a high-traffic area, isn't reasonable for staff to inspect that it is safe and free from obstructions before letting customers through? I recognise that Chris needs to watch his step but his view of the grape was obstructed by the trolleys until the moment he slipped.

Am I missing something here? It seems that most weight is given to the timeframe for reasonable action to remove the foreign object. And less so for reasonable action to prevent it from being there in the first place. Why is this so? What is the law/precedents that might strengthen or weaken this case?

Thank you.