Former Coles employee awarded $1 million after falling from stool

The employee claimed she had no training in using the step and had just watched the way that others had used it

Former Coles employee awarded $1 million after falling from stool
A 34-year-old woman has been awarded more than $1 million after she injured herself by falling from a safety step at a Coles supermarket.

The ACT Supreme Court heard she fell on her right side and injured her hip. After a range of different medical treatments, the hip had to be replaced.

The incident happened when she was working in a Canberra store for one month in 2009.

Nicole Harris claimed she had no training in using the step and had just observed what a fellow worker had done and copied her movements.

Lawyers for Coles told the Court the safety step was used by supermarkets across Australia, and was an obvious piece of equipment for which no training was necessary.

Moreover, Coles denied her claims the company had been negligent, breached its duty of care or failed to provide a safe workplace.

However, Justice Linda Ashford disagreed that the training wasn’t necessary and did not believe Harris was exaggerating the extent of the symptoms.

"I do not accept there to have been the requisite training in the use of the step and there appears to have been no supervision or monitoring of the plaintiff in the performance of her work whilst using the step,” she wrote.

"The defendant submits the plaintiff to be exaggerating her symptoms. I did not believe the plaintiff to be other than straightforward in her evidence.

"Clearly this has been a significant injury and the plaintiff will have continuing problems with her hip, leading almost inevitably to further hip replacement surgery."

She added that calling a step a safety step does not make it so.

“At first blush, this seems a straightforward item in common use, yet the defendant's spreadsheet indicates 47 per cent of accidents using the step occurred in getting down from the step,” she wrote.

“This is not an exercise in hindsight. This is not a dangerous step, per se, but this was an accident the defendant, as an employer, should have and could have avoided by proper supervision and training of the plaintiff and other employees.”

Harris was awarded $1,088,468.53 in compensation, with $570,229 to cover past and future economic loss, $222,200 in general damages and $236,039 for past and future medical expenses.

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