The recent BC Supreme Court decision in Robinson v. 1390709 Alberta Ltd., 2016 BCSC 2459, is significant for retail chains in that it emphasizes the need to adequately train employees, and the need to properly and consistently follow the cleaning and inspection regimes which are put into place. The decision is also of significance in that the Court also concluded that a plaintiff is not required to be able to say with precision what sort of substance caused a fall in order to succeed in establishing a claim against a defendant.
In Robinson the defendant operated a fast-food style restaurant which specialized in salads. The plaintiff claimed she had slipped and fallen in the restaurant after stepping on a "slimy" and "thicker than liquid" substance left on the floor. The plaintiff successfully brought a summary trial application and the defendant was found to be 100 per cent liable.
Justice Gaul distinguished this case from the line of cases in which claimants were either simply advancing a theory or speculating about what had been on the floor that caused the accidents. Justice Gaul concluded that the plaintiff was not speculating or theorizing. She had put forth credible and reliable evidence that there was a foreign substance on the floor which created a potential hazard.
The Court also concluded that the defendant did not have a suitable cleaning regime in place. The standard to be met in this regard was not outlined in detail. However, it was noted that the training program for employees contained very little review of the systems manual, the employee handbook or any other policy manual. Employees only obtained hands-on training during the course of their work, with no identifiable structure. Additionally, any cleaning regime was not being implemented properly or consistently.