Voice of the Cape

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Injured in a shopping mall? Know your rights

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Shopping malls can be a place of therapy for consumers as they relish in the thrill of spending their money on desirable goods and services. However, a pleasant shopping experience can quickly turn tragic, due to injury and accidents. Two weeks ago, a part of the ceiling of the Somerset Mall in Cape Town collapsed, the second time in two years. The mall was evacuated as a result of the collapse and two people were injured as a result of the incident.

A shopping centre is responsible for providing a safe environment in which to work, shop and relax. In other words, it’s legally obliged to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable injuries from occurring.

What are the consequences for consumers who are injured during unforeseen tragedies and what can be done about this situation?

Kirstie Haslam, a director at DSC Attorneys explains the rights of consumers when an injury occurs at shopping malls and other public places.

“A personal injury claim can be done if a person sustained an injury as a result of the negligence of the wrong doer. Shopping mall owners or managers have a legal duty of making sure the mall/centre is safe for the use of consumers using the facilities,” said Haslam.

Haslam said that a personal injury claim can be made due to the shopping mall failing to adhere to the duty of care. She said that if they failed to take reasonable steps to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm, then such a claim can be made. If you or a member of your family is injured at a shopping centre and the injury was due to negligence of the shopping centre, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against the centre or the other relevant party.

“There is often a common misconception that an indemnity or disclaimer is not worth the paper it is written on and this is not true, it isn’t universally enforceable. Depending on the circumstances of injury, it requires a thorough investigation to determine whether that disclaimer or indemnity will hold up,” said Haslam.

Haslam emphasises that the advantage of technology works in great favour when such incidents occur. She said that it is important to take as much photos and footage of what happened. She stressed that having the relevant evidence will help to depict what went wrong. If a consumer is injured, then they should seek immediate medical assistance.

“In order to hold them accountable, consult an attorney, the preservation of footage is very important. Shopping centres have the camera footage, get that while it is still accessible to you before it is destroyed and lost, the sooner you gather that evidence the better it is in the end,” said Haslam.

Haslam urged consumers that if a shopping centre fails to put up signs for slippery floors which could cause injury, they will be liable. The same goes for obstructions in the shopping centre that are not removed or faulty doors and escalators that do not work without hazard boards being put up. These are all kinds of areas that cause injuries to others.

“They have a duty to regularly inspect the building and see hidden dangers, although certain things cannot be predicted. A similar incident happened in that mall [Somerset] last year so that should have raised huge alarm bells. The shopping mall should have experts to come in and do thorough investigations and make sure that nothing else would happen and that is a huge worry here,” said Haslam.

Haslam urged consumers to gather enough evidence as this is important. Seeking medical assistance when you are injured is also as important. Also, getting a confident attorney if you have a case to pursue. Be sure to report the incident to the management of the shopping centre as well. VOC


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