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North Van shopper awarded $755K for supermarket fall

Judge orders store to pay after slip on soapy spill results in permanent disability

A woman who suffered a brain injury after slipping in a pool of spilled laundry detergent and hitting her head in the Real Canadian Superstore in North Vancouver has been awarded more than $755,000 by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

Justice Jasvinder Basran ordered the award be paid to Lori Lee Harrison after concluding that Harrison “suffered a significant head injury” in the accident that left her permanently disabled and that Superstore was responsible for the accident.

Harrison had been shopping in the North Vancouver supermarket on Seymour Boulevard on the morning of March 12, 2012, according to court documents, and was walking to an aisle to buy a Kinder Surprise treat for her nephew when she stepped in a large pool of liquid laundry detergent. Harrison slipped and fell backwards, hitting the back of her head on the floor. Firefighters came to the store to administer first aid and she was taken to Lions Gate Hospital.

The judge concluded during a trial that while Superstore had a reasonable system of inspections and store maintenance in place, the manager at the time didn’t keep many of the records required, which would have shown when the area where Harrison slipped was last inspected, who was working in the store that day and provided photos of the area where the accident happened. The judge said because of that, there was no evidence to determine whether the system was actually being followed.

The judge wrote that the brain injury Harrison suffered had a dramatic impact on her life.

Prior to the accident, Harrison, 48, was active and optimistic. She swam, walked, volunteered, was an outgoing person and was hardworking and cheerful at her job as a longtime bookkeeper and office assistant for a glass manufacturing company.

“All this changed dramatically as a result of the accident,” wrote Basran in his April 10 decision.

Harrison has suffered headaches, dizziness and memory problems, was unable to concentrate and could not perform her job as she had before.

Harrison’s former boss testified that after the accident, her ability to finish tasks declined and “she would frequently get headaches during the day and would be unable to continue working.”

Harrison never returned to full-time employment with the company and eventually lost her job.

Harrison has not been able to find full-time employment since then and “it is unlikely that she will be able to return to the workforce beyond a very minimal level. She is simply no longer able to work,” the judge concluded.

“She is now a mere shadow of her former self,” wrote Basran, noting, “her enjoyment of life has been dramatically reduced.”

The judge’s award of $755,549 included $175,000 for pain and suffering, $195,000 for past loss of income, $375,000 for loss of future earning capacity, approximately $6,500 in special damages for three years’ of neurophysiotherapy treatments and approximately $4,100 for the costs of future care.