Ward v Tesco Stores Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Judgment Date13 November 1975
Judgment citation (vLex)[1975] EWCA Civ J1113-8

[1975] EWCA Civ J1113-8

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

The Court of Appeal

(Civil Division)



Lord Justice Megaw

Lord Justice Lawton and

Lord Justice Ormrod

May Ward
Tesco Stores Limited

Mr. DAVID OWEN (instructed by Messrs. Willey Hargrave & Co., Agents Messrs. A. W. Mawer & Co., Liverpool) appeared on behalf of the Appellants (Defendants).

Mr. NORBURY DUGDALE (instructed by Messrs. E. Rex Makin & Co., Liverpool) appeared on behalf of the Respondent (Plaintiff).


I shall ask Lord Justice Lawton to deliver the first judgment.


This is an appeal by the defendants, Tesco Stores Limited., from a judgment of His Honour Judge Nance given in the Liverpool County Court on the 21st February, 1975, whereby he adjudged that the plaintiff should recover against the defendants £178.50 damages and her costs on Scale 2, for personal injuries said to have been caused by the negligence of the defendants in the maintenance of the floor in their supermarket at Smithdown Road, Liverpool. By consent the sum awarded has been reduced to £137.10. The higher figure was due to an arithmetical error.


The plaintiff, Mrs. Ward, in June, 1974, at about mid-day went to the defendants' supermarket. It is a large one and is carried of in premises which used to be a cinema. Inside the premises were laid out in the way which is usual nowadays in supermarkets. On duty there was a total of about 30 to 35 staff; but in the middle of the day that number was reduced because staff had to be relieved in order to enable them to get their mid-day meals.


The plaintiff went round the store, carrying a wire basket, as shoppers are expected to do in supermarkets. She was doing her shopping at the back of the store when she felt herself slipping. She appreciated that she was slipping on something which was sticky. She fell to the ground, and sustained minor injuries. She had not seen what had caused her to slip. It was not suggested, either at the trial or in this Court, that she had in any way been negligent in failing to notice what was on the floor as she walked along doing her shopping. When she was picking herself up she appreciated that she had slipped on some pink substance which looked to her like yoghourt. It was yoghourt. Later, somebody on the defendants' staff found a carton of yoghourt in the vicinity which was two-thirds empty.


A member of the staff helped to pick the plaintiff up. The manager was called. The plaintiff was taken to his office. She was dealt with there in a kindly and considerate way. The defendants offered to, and did, arrange for such of her clothes as had been soiled by the fall to be cleaned.


That is all the plaintiff was able to prove, save for one additional fact. About three weeks later when she was shopping in the same store she noticed that some orange squash had been spilt on the floor. She kept an eye on the spillage for about a quarter of an hour. During that time nobody came to clear it up.


The trial judge was of the opinion that the facts which I have related constituted a prima facie case against the defendants. I infer that this case, which involves only a small amount of damages, has been brought to this Court because the defendants are disturbed that any judge should find that a prima facie case is established merely by a shopper proving that she slipped on a supermarket floor.


At the trial the defendants called some evidence. Their manager spoke about the store and how many staff were employed. He went on to say that the staff had the following instruction about spillages: "Stay where the spill has taken place and call someone else". He said that usually in a store of this kind and size there was to be found some member of the staff near where the spillage had occurred. He went on to say that the store had a astern for keeping the floor clean. Contractors came in every night to give it a general clean-up. Twice a week those contractors carried out "buffing" - which in the South of England would be called "polishing". The manager said that every day whilst the store was open the floor was brushed five or six times. The defendants did not call any evidence as to when the store floor had last been brushed before the plaintiff's accident. It follows that there was no evidence before the court as to whether the floor had been brushed a few moments before the accident,or an hour, or possibly an hour and a half. The court was left without any information on what may have been an important matter.


The manager in cross-examination said that spillages did occur from time to time; he thought there were about ten breakages a week, but most of them came from the breaking of squash bottles.


It follows that those in charge of the store knew that during the course of a working week there was a likelihood of spillages occurring from time to time. It was accepted at the trial that shoppers, intent on looking to see what is on offer, cannot be expected to look where they are putting their feet. The management should have appreciated that if there are patches of slippery sub-stances on the floor people are liable to step into them and that, if they do, they may slip. It follows too that if those are the conditions to be expected in the store there must be some reasonably effective system for getting rid of the dangers which may from time to time exist. The only precautions which were taken were, first, the system of having the floor brushed five or six times during the working day, and secondly, giving instructions to the staff that if they saw any spillage on the floor they were to stay where the spill had taken place and call somebody to clean it up.


The main complaint of the defendants in this case has been that the trial judge should never have taken the view that the plaintiff had proved a prima facie case. It was submitted before this Court that it was for the plaintiff to show that the spillage had been on the floor an unduly long time and that there had been opportunities for the management to clean it up which they had not taken. In support of that proposition, Mr. Owen, on behalf of the defendants, invited our attention to Richards v. W. F. White & Co. (1957 1 Lloyd's List Reports 367). It is necessary to say something about the facts of that case because, as in all cases of negligence, the facts are important. A dock labourer who was working on a ship in dock whichwas being unloaded slipped on a patch of oil and injured himself. At the material time between 300 and 400 men in various trades were working on the ship. In the course of his judgment at page 369 Mr. Justice Devlin (as he then was) said this: "If there had been evidence which showed that there was some danger not perhaps of oil but some other danger, which was being left on the ship for two or three days, or anything of that sort, which the shipowners were doing nothing about, a prima facie case of negligence would be made out; but to make out a prima facie case of negligence in a case of this sort, there must, I think, be some evidence to show how long the oil had been there, some evidence from which it can be inferred that a prudent shipowner, who had a reasonable system of inspection for the purpose of seeing that dangers of this sort were not created, ought to have noticed it".


That case was decided on its own facts. I doubt whether Mr. Justice Devlin intended to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
108 cases
  • Wayne Ann Holdings Ltd v Sandra Morgan
    • Jamaica
    • Court of Appeal
    • 2 December 2011
    ...adduced supported a conclusion that the appellant did not have time to do so, he argued. 21 He also submitted that the case of Ward v Tesco Stores [1976] 1 All ER 219 on which the learned judge relied was distinguishable from this case. In Ward v Tesco Stores, the claimant was a customer wh......
  • Strong v Woolworths Ltd
    • Australia
    • High Court
    • 7 March 2012
    ...burden’ of proof lay on the first respondent. For that proposition the appellant cited statements of Lawton LJ and Megaw LJ in Ward v Tesco Stores Ltd56 and statements in the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia in Brown v Target Australia Pty Ltd57. 47 The appellant also adva......
  • Mr Ivor Cook v Swansea City Council
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 19 December 2017
    ...finding I have come to". 17 In relation to the second question and the issue of causation the judge distinguished the case of Ward v Tesco Stores Ltd [1976] 1 WLR 810 which had been relied on by the Claimant as placing an evidential burden on the Defendant to show that the accident wou......
  • Morgan (Sandra) v Wayne Ann Holding Ltd (t/a Super Plus Food Store Ltd)
    • Jamaica
    • Supreme Court
    • 29 May 2009
    ...therefore be said to explain the inconsistent accounts presented by the defence. 28 I am guided by the words of Lawton L.J. in Ward v. Tesco Stores Ltd. [1976] 1 All ER 219 at page 221. "If an accident does happen because the floors are covered with spillage, then in my judgment some ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Burden of Proof in Undue Influence: Common Law and Codes on Collision Course
    • United Kingdom
    • International Journal of Evidence & Proof, The Nbr. 7-4, December 2003
    • 1 December 2003
    ...of the36 Henderson v Henry E. Jenkins & Sons [1970] AC 282; Moore v R. Fox & Sons [1956] 1 QB 596; Ward v TescoStores Ltd [1976]1 WLR 810.37 Ballard v North British Railway Co. 1923 SC (HL) 43 at 54; Colvilles Ltd v Devine [1969] 1 WLR 475 at479; Lloyde v West Midlands Gas Board [19......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT