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Written by Peter Carter

July 29, 2014

A court has found McDonald’s safety practices to be lacking and customers exposed to injury hazards when cleaning protocols were allowed to be shirked.

Chef Chris Jackson entered McDonald’s George Street (Sydney) store, after the end of his shift at a Darlinghurst restaurant, on a June morning in 2007. On walking back out, he crossed a newly mopped section of the restaurant and 5-6 paces later, slipped at the top of a flight of stairs, as a result of what he claimed was “residual moisture left on his shoe”.

His injury claim was dismissed on the basis that he had failed to prove negligence. His appeal against that ruling was decided in July by the NSW Court of Appeal. McDonald’s contended that multiple precautions – the use of a dry mopping system; non-slip tiles; non-slip detergent; warning signs and bubble tiles at the top of the stairs – constituted a sufficiently reasonable raft of safety measures to comply with its duty of care to customers.

But even the dry mopping system left a “thin-film” of water, albeit one that dried relatively quickly. And its operations manual required mopping to be restricted to “small zones” to be completed successively so as to always leave a dry zone through which patrons could pass without being exposed to the wet surface.

Two of the three appeal judges ruled that mopping the floor in sections “was a simple convenient precaution that would have prevented the risk” and ought to have been adopted. Thus Jackson had established that McDonald’s was in breach of its duty of care but unfortunately this was not enough to secure victory for his claim.

Because he could not say whether there was still any moisture on his shoes when he slipped – he merely surmised that there was – McDonald’s was able to convince the court his slip was just as likely as a result of entirely different circumstances, for example, a miss-step or inattention.

He thus failed to establish that McDonald’s proven breach was the cause of the fall.

Jackson’s appeal failed and he was ordered to pay McDonald’s legal costs of the trial and the appeal.

Jackson v McDonald’s Australia Ltd [2014] NSWCA 162 McColl JA Barrett JA and Ward JA 26/06/2014 – view decision

Categories: Personal Injury , Litigation & Law Practice

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