Pallet Liability: Broken Pallet Results in $50,000 Settlement After Injury

With pallet usage comes the issue of liability. There is an onus on any business that uses pallets to take steps to ensure that through specification and condition, that they are suitable for the application. The settlement of a recent lawsuit in the British Columbia Supreme Court resulting from the use of a broken pallet serves as a cautionary note. Broken pallets can create a hazard to customers and employees, and managers have a duty to take reasonable measures to eliminate this risk.

In this particular case (Etson v. Loblaw Companies Ltd.), a 78-year-old woman tripped on a board that was protruding from the bottom of a pallet used for an aisle display of dishwashing detergent. She fell and broke her hip, ultimately necessitating hip replacement surgery.

The B.C. Supreme Court found Loblaw Companies Ltd.  50% at fault for the plaintiff’s fall, assigning the other 50% of blame to the plaintiff for failing to watch where she was going.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Fisher commented that the accident might have been prevented if the broken board had been removed, and the detergent buckets stacked in a more uniform manner along the outer corner of the pallet.

Furthermore, Justice Fisher emphasized that there was  no evidence of any visual inspection of this pallet by any of the defendant’s staff. In her view, if someone had looked at the pallet, they would have easily concluded that the pallet presented a tripping hazard and consequently would have remedied it.

Non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 and special damages at $7,027.80, were assessed by the court, and then halved, in accordance with the distribution of fault. The plaintiff received $48,513.90.

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