Falling in a Maccas Carpark

Belmont v McDonalds Australia Limited [2020] QDC 319

In a decision from the District Court of Queensland delivered on 11 December 2020, a 46-year-old mother was denied her claim for compensation against McDonalds Australia Limited (‘McDonalds’).

The decision is another reminder that every case will turn on its own facts, and to always look out for where you are going!

Background

On 9 October 2016, Ms Susan Belmont attended McDonald’s restaurant to collect her daughter, Jessica, who worked there.

She parked her car in the parking space near the entry of the restaurant and waited for her daughter to finish her shift at McDonald’s at 7pm. The car park was owned by McDonalds.

When Jessica finished her shift, she arrived at the car before the pair decided to head back into the restaurant to buy some ice cream.

She stepped onto a bollard (i.e., a cement tyre stop permanently fixed to the carpark) with both feet and was stepping from that bollard onto the concourse when she fell over.

As a result, she sustained injuries to her left arm and shoulder, and this interfered with both her capacity to work and enjoyment of life.

Ms Belmont’s Claim

Ms Belmont commenced proceedings against McDonalds, arguing that her fall was caused by McDonald’s negligence and particularly, an alleged failure to ensure the front of the restaurant adequately lit for customers.

She alleged that, had the lights in the car park been adequately lit, she would have been able to judge the distance more adequately between the parking bollard and the concourse of the restaurant.

The Decision

Ultimately, the case turned upon the condition of the lighting in the carpark and whether the plaintiff’s fall was caused by such risk or her own inattention. This required a thorough analysis of the mechanism of the fall as captured by the CCTV footage.

Crucially, upon review of the evidence, His Honour Justice Horneman-Wren SC ultimately formed a view that Ms Belmont’s gaze was diverted away from her path of travel at the time of the fall.

Indeed, in paragraph 31 of the judgment, His Honour states the following with reference to the CCTV footage:

… She then steps onto the bollard with her right foot, such that she is standing on the bollard with both feet. She then moves her head upward and to the right. As she does so, she is not looking either toward the ground or in the direction of her travel. It is at that point that she steps off the bollard with her left foot. Her left foot does not land on the concourse and she commences her fall. It is only after her fall commences that her head turns forward and in the direction of the restaurant entry. She then falls heavily onto the concourse”.

Further, in paragraph 32, His Honour states rather concisely, “The plaintiff, simply, failed to pay attention to where she was stepping and fell”.

Her injuries were not caused by any negligence, or beach of duty, from McDonald’s. There was insufficient evidence to suggest the area was inadequately lit.

Her claim for compensation was therefore dismissed.

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