Work Cover – What a grape case!

Teacher who slipped on a grape on playground duty has case dismissed

In 2015, Ms Deans was working as a school teacher at Riverside Christian College when she was walking between classrooms and slipped on a grape. She sustained a fractured patella. It was assumed that the grape had been dropped onto the foyer floor by a student collecting fruit from their bag during ‘fruit break’. Work cover

Ms Deans argued that the risk of injury from dropped fruit was a foreseeable risk. In her opinion the College had breached its duty of care by failing to inspect and clean the area after fruit breaks, as it was a high-volume pedestrian thoroughfare.

The College argued that its system to identify and dispose of rubbish was sufficient to safeguard against risks of injury.

The trial judge dismissed Ms Deans’ claim for $350,000, finding the risk of injury was not foreseeable given the lack of evidence of prior incidents, inadequate supervision or other problems with ‘fruit break’ and, irrespective, it was an insignificant risk.

In coming to the decision the trial judge found that the College did not breach its duty of care to Ms Deans because its housekeeping system was reasonable, there was no need to supervise Ms Deans or provide her specific warnings about the relevant risk even if someone had been engaged to inspect the area immediately after the fruit break was concluded, and it was unlikely that a single grape would have been detected. It would have been unreasonable for the College to abolish ‘fruit break’, given its benefits to students.

This case serves as a reminder that, where a risk is foreseeable but highly unlikely to occur, employers are only expected to take reasonable precautions – that is, employers are not required to take every conceivable measure to avoid such insignificant risks.

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